Rostropovich art collection opens to public

The art collection of the celebrated Russian musicians cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and his wife opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya, which made headlines last autumn when it was announced it was to be sold individually at Sotheby's, has found a new residen

The collection consists of paintings by prominent Russian artists of the 19th century, imperial porcelain, interior pieces and furniture totalling more than 800 items, representing Russian art from the 17th to the 20th centuries.

Mstislav Rostropovich and Galina Vishnevskaya gathered this collection during the 30 years they spent in Paris after they left the USSR in the 1970s.

After the great musician died in April last year, his wife made the decision to put the collection on sale, as she said she didn't possess all the resources needed for its maintenance, security and restoration.

It was due to go under the hammer at Sotheby's in September 2007, but the auction was cancelled at the last minute, when Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov stepped in to buy the entire collection.

To avoid splitting it up and to bring it back to Russia Usmanov reportedly paid $US 72 million.

“In my opinion this collection is an incarnation of love to the motherland of those who gathered it. The same feeling has inspired me to give it to the country to which this art really belongs,” the businessman said.

Several world-famous museums wanted to display these items, including the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the museums of the Moscow Kremlin.

But the collection has found its new residence at the newly restored 18th-century Constantine Palace near St. Petersburg.

Now everyone will be able to enjoy the collection assembled by the outstanding Russian musicians, with the public display permanently open at the 15 museum halls of the palace.