MOSCOW (AFP) ― The tireless 91-year-old matriarch of the renowned Pushkin Art Museum in Moscow is leaving her post after steering the institution for 52 years, Russia’s cultural minister said Monday.
The announcement came as a surprise but follows a protracted battle Pushkin director Irina Antonova has waged to return to Moscow a collection of Impressionist art from Saint Petersburg, where it was sent on orders of Joseph Stalin in the 1940s.
“Irina Alexandrovna is a living legend, and she is a person who made the Pushkin Museum into a legend. We are infinitely thankful to Irina Alexandrovna,” said culture minister Vladimir Medinsky.
Antonova will now serve as the museum’s president, a position that has been created especially for her.
“I thank the museum for my life in the museum, for these years, and I thank all of you, with whom I have worked for many years with, I think, some success,” Antonova responded, speaking at a special museum meeting that was shown on television, as the institution’s numerous staff stood up and applauded.
She then proceeded on a tour of the galleries, irritably waving cameramen away from the Titian paintings the museum is currently exhibiting.