The Palace Of Art Collections

Director, Museum of Art Collections A magic and impartial destiny decided that, at the celebration of a century since the materialization of the idea of art collection and art collector, the reopening of a Palace of Collections should take place.
An initiative, disputed at the time, ascribed, as early as 1978, the former Romanit Palace, situated at 3, Victoriei Street, as the premises for exhibiting the art collections in Bucharest. The sumptuous palace of the Romanit treasurer (salt merchant), erected around 1820 by Facca the boyar and turned in 1859 by ruler Alexandru Ioan Cuza into the Ministry of Finance, was, as it turned out, the most appropriate place to host the first art collections set up in Bucharest: that of engineer Atanasie Simu (shaped in 1907 and donated to the state in 1927), the collection of the great art lover Krikor Zambaccian (1947), that of lawyer Moise Weinberg (1947), the collection of academician Alexandru Slatineanu and his son Dr. Barbu Slatineanu (1950), and Dr. Iosif Dona's famous collection (1950). The collections donated in the 1970s as a result of the emulation in Romanian culture joined this exhibition. Thus, in the generous space of the Romanit Palace were brought from their homes the collection of the music professor Garabet Avachian (1971), that of painter Iosif Iser (1971), of siblings Beatrice and Hrandt Avakian (1971), the collection of diplomat Gheorghe Raut (1970), of general consul in Jerusalem Marcu Beza (1971). At the same time, the academician George Oprescu and the playwright Victor Eftimiu donated their collections to the RomanianAcademy, and hence, by an act of making the art collectors' pantheon whole again, these were integrated in the form of custody in the new museum. The reactions of the public and of the press to transferring the collections from the donators' homes to these headquarters didn't keep people waiting, although, due to the political situation, their virulence manifested itself mainly orally. They referred to the mundane, picturesque atmosphere obscured or even abolished by the new spatial dimension. The accusations sometimes resulted in formulating in a whisper the pretexts for destroying or even purloining the exhibits envisaged. However, nobody had the curiosity and the initiative of confronting the initial donations with the present ones, perhaps also for fear of debunking a false but sensational assertion. Beyond the atmosphere created by the stock of rumors, the private collections donated received in 1978, on the occasion of their display on the cymas of the Romanit Palace, the confirmation of their museum value. Hence, from the mere function of decorating the interiors of a house, more or less fortuitously, the works of painting, graphic art, decorative art, proved to be small art museums made up according to significant criteria for reflecting the artistic preferences of each collector. Two major tendencies could be distinguished: one focused on Romanian art, especially the maestros of the interwar period, and another on Oriental art, from the Near East to the Far East. In the new architectonic configuration, the heterogeneous structure of the collections imposed the reconstruction of the atmosphere from the donators' homes, but allowed as well a more varied thematic grouping based not as much on artistic genres as on clearly defined cultural areas. In this respect, the collection of Dr. Iosif Dona, keeping the symbolic tinge from the family's small house, offered the complex image of the collector's artistic vision, from the academism of Nicolae Grigorescu through the expressionism of Ion Tuculescu, to the avant-garde painting of Marcel Iancu. The presence of Camille Pissarro's work Le charpentier could be an element of comparison, but also of plastic suggestion for integrating Romanian art in the European art. The pictorial chromatic harmonies found a pendent in the Sileh and Summak rugs, the Bukhara embroideries, the Ghiordes and Kula praying mats, etc. The spacious halls of the RomanitPalace also revaluated the Garabet Avachian collections, which comprised the largest selection of glass icons (19th century), together with representative creations of Theodor Pallady, Lucian Grigorescu, Dimitrie Ghiata, Nicolae Darascu. The chromatics of the still life paintings by Alexandru Ciucurencu found significant reverberations near the Bohemia crystals (19th century) and the silverware pieces, engraved in the Viennese workshops. The Japanese engravings, the Chinese silk paintings (19th century), the cloisonné and the ivory pieces from the same cultural area were well individualised, by exposing them in a separate space. Favoured were also the collections of Elena and Anastasie Simu and that of academician George Oprescu, by structuring the exhibition on the great European painting schools, the Slatineanu collection by emphasizing the idea of comparative art proposed by the collectors, the collection of brothers Beatrice and Hrandt Avakian by finding some ways of displaying the diversity of the decorative art objects from the Near East and the Far East, up to fitting up a precious thesaurus room, offering nonetheless the creation of the collector, an amateur painter, the satisfaction of his artistic fulfilment. The controversy hovered for years around K. Zambaccian's collection. The art lovers, amateurs or professionals, still hosting the nostalgia for the old artistic sanctuary, conceived and created by the collector as early as the interwar period, refused to adjust to the new interiors. The ineffable mystery of the collector's presence in absence had disappeared. It may have been this un-dissimulated protest that contributed to the return home of the collection, after almost 17 years of absence. However, after performing this act of physical and moral restoration, one must admit that the works of Th. Pallady, Alexandru Padina, Micaela Eleutheriade, Gh. Petrascu, Nicolae Darascu, especially with the huge work entitled Muslim Cemetery, but also the hall of the French impressionists (Bonnard, Utrillo, Cézanne, Matisse and so on) could be revaluated, even if the only criterion of reference was their artistic quality.The public's and the collectors' confirmation of acknowledging the Museum of Art Collections came in 1980 when Maruca Dona, one of the art collectors' daughters, offered the first donation to this institution, for restoring the initial stock, completing it with other works by N. Grigorescu, St. Luchian, Gh. Petrascu and many others. It was a crucial moment that marked the transformation of the Museum of Art Collections from a closed museum into an active institution, open to the public. It is interesting to notice that in opposition to other museums that enlarged their patrimony by permanent acquisitions, the Museum of Art Collections was made up by the public itself, as the successive donations that were added to the 13 collections, up to 44, as we currently have, can be taken as a proof of appreciation. To the small collections of director Sica Alexandrescu, that of writer Anatol Bakonsky or of doctor Sorin Schachter, including painting and graphic art, a great diversity of collections was added, such as that of Dr. Mircea Petrescu, remarkable by its Verdure tapestry (17th century), the Flemish furniture (18th century), the Aubusson halls, and more, the collection of Valentina and Mircea Nicolaescu, based on old Peruvian art, the monographic collections of artists such as Lucia Dem Balacescu, Micaela Eleutheriade, Alexandru Calinescu, Adrian Secosanu, Alexandru Phoebus.This emulation had far-reaching echoes, because we received in 1985, from Belgium, the donation of the Romanian-born sculptor Idel Ianchelevici, containing 8 sculptures and 275 graphic art works, then, from Japan – 19 sculptures in glass, made by Shizuko Onda, and in 2001, painter Albert Dov Sigal's wife sent from America a donation comprising 42 representative works from the artist's oeuvre.An original aspect is represented by the discreet but essential relation between the collection and the collector, sustained not by a personal vanity but rather by that comprehensible spirituality of remaining in the world of memories, around the objects collected over the years, sometimes even with financial sacrifices. The objectification of this relation was materialised by subsequent donations. Thus, brothers Beatrice and Hrandt Avakian supplemented their donations in two periods, namely in 1988 and in 1995. Also, Elisabeta Weinberg and Professor Artemisa Petrescu, after the death of the collectors, enriched their collections with new pieces of furniture and paintings. Their example was more recently followed by collector Ortensia Dinulescu Anca and by colonel Preda, for the Collection Dumitru and Maria Stefanescu, as they wished to render more agreeable their exhibition from the recently inaugurated part of the building with other valuable personal exhibits.At the end of 2003 the renovation of a part of the building of the Romanit Palace, meant for the Museum of Art Collections a different exhibition arrangement, by individualising every collection in separate rooms, also highlighted by chromatic symbols.Consolidated and modernised, although only partially, the Romanit Palace is always waiting for new donations.

by Florenţa Ivaniuc