Living with Art
It wasn't until 1969 that the Brochetains began to collect modern Russian art, and a fortunate accident played a key role. One morning, while visiting his daughter in Jerusalem, Michel went for a swim in the overchlorinated pool in her apartment complex. Momentarily blinded by the strong solution, he collided with another bather, who turned out to be a gallery owner. After the exchange of apologies, the conversation switched to art - and led to Michel's first Russian purchase, a painting by Valentina Shapiro. Shapiro in turn introduced Lili and Michel to other Russian painters in exile such as Tselkov and Zelenin, and thereafter the Russian collection grew by leaps and bounds.
The dissident era has long passed and the painters in the collection now constitute an artistic school at once historic and historical. "There's a time to start and a time to stop," observes Michel, "and there's a logic in terminating the collection." The collection has achieved an organic wholeness and it provides a composite and unique image of the dissident movement. Occassionally paintings are added to the collection but the scarcity and the exorbitant prices of good material discourage further commitments.
After living with Russian art for so long, the Brochetains would like others to find out about the collection because it contains some of the finest paintings by the ex-dissidents and yet it has never been catalogued, or exhibited in the West. The hope is that through this online presentation the public will gain a deeper understanding of the evolution of modern Russian culture.
Adapted from Artnews February 1994
by John E. Bowlt
Professor of Russian Studies at USC, Los Angeles