Working in and with Russia

We have developed an increasingly active relationship with Russia in recent years, with collaborations taking place both in Russia and the UK.

Latest news

The V&A is partnering with State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and Vogue Russia to develop a major new exhibition which will examine the influence of Russia on 20th-century and contemporary Western fashion. It will engage with key periods and styles in Russian history, including: Russian folk culture, Tsarist court and imperial costume, Russian avant-garde and revolutionary romanticism, and Perestroika. It will draw on a range of collections from the V&A, and the State Tretyakov Gallery, including fashion, film, fine art, photography and costume and feature works by leading artists and designers from Rodchenko to Bakst, Paul Poiret to Jean Paul Gaultier. It is anticipated the exhibition will open at the V&A in 2020 before being presented at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Although the partners will work together to curate the exhibition, our intention in announcing this project early is to invite you to be part of the creative dialogue. If you would like to share your thoughts with us, please write to:

Collections and galleries

The V&A has significant Russian collections of metalwork, jewellery and theatre and performance related objects. Russian furniture, textiles, glass, sculpture and paintings are also present in the V&A collections.

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Costume designed by Alexander Golovin for Feodor Chaliapin in Modeste Mussorgsky’s opera ‘Boris Godunov’, about 1909-1910. Museum no. S.459-1979. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Russian objects can be seen in the V&A galleries, including the superb silver-gilt gates from Kiev (now Kyiv, Ukraine), given under Russian patronage from Catherine the Great to the monks of the Orthodox Church. The V&A galleries show good examples of mosaics, secular and religious silver, gold boxes, and jewellery from the Russian royal collections. The William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery displays many Fabergé pieces, including the Seeds imperial presentation box, and a loan collection of cigarette cases and carved animals formed by the late Kenneth Snowman, including items owned by Queen Alexandra. The galleries also show Russian toys, Revolutionary ceramics and traditional 19th century jewellery. A Golovin-designed costume for Chaliapin in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov is on display in the Theatre & Performance galleries.

The Europe 1600-1800 Galleries, opened in 2015, features a bust of Catherine the Great by the pre-eminent Russian Neoclassical sculptor, Fedot Ivanovich Shubin (1740-1805), né Shubnoi. The display includes a portrait of Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia and several objects produced at the Imperial Arms Factory in Tula, including a spectacular and unique steel and gold fireplace probably given in around 1805 by the Russian intellectual Princess Dashkova (1743-1810) to Martha Wilmot of Cork in southern Ireland. The galleries also show a specially-created, three-minute film based on Catherine the Great's use of the Neoclassical style that will focus on the Agate Rooms at Tsarskoye Selo, Catherine’s summer estate and palace, shortly after their conservation. The Hermitage has supported the film.

Exhibitions at the V&A

  • Russian Avant-Garde Theatre: War Revolution and Design 1913-1931 (October 2014 – March 2015): Presented in the V&A Theatre and Performance galleries, the display was curated in collaboration with the A.A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum in Moscow. It was supported by the Russian Ministry of Culture.
  • The Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars (March 2013–July 2013): This exhibition at the V&A marked the 400 year anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. It was created in collaboration with the Moscow Kremlin Museums, where it was first exhibited as The Golden Age of the English Court, from Henry VIII to Charles I (October 2012–January 2013) and attracted over 140,000 visitors. The London show included a substantial loan of late Tudor, early Stuart and French 17th century silver from the Moscow Kremlin Museums and portraits of Tsars and a Russian Ambassador to England from the Moscow Kremlin Museums and the State Historic Museum.
  • Space and Light (September 2010–March 2011): The exhibition focused on Edward Gordon Craig's work with Stanislavski for the Moscow Arts Theatre’s Hamlet of 1911.
  • Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 (2010): This exhibition explored the world of the influential artistic director Sergei Diaghilev and the most exciting dance company of the 20th Century. Through this exhibition the V&A developed a good relationship with the Ekaterina Foundation in Moscow, which funded the first private art gallery in Moscow and owns an important private collection of modern art.
  • Magnificence of the Tsars: Ceremonial Men's Dress of the Russian Imperial Court, 1721-1917 (December 2008–March 2009): This exhibition was shown at the V&A from December 2008 to March 2009 as part of an exchange with the Moscow Kremlin Museum.

Exhibitions in Russia

Most recently, as part of the 2014 Bilateral UK/Russia Year of Culture, the V&A toured four exhibitions to Russia:

  • Julia Margaret Cameron (November 2014–February 2015): The exhibition at the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow attracted 136,000 visitors. Drawn entirely from the V&A’s rich collection of Cameron photographs, this exhibition celebrated the bicentenary of Julia Margaret Cameron’s birth.
  • Shooting Shakespeare (October 2014–January 2015): The exhibition celebrated the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth in autumn 2014 at the Bakhrushin State Theatre Museum in Moscow.
  • The Half: Photographs of Actors by Simon Annand (October 2014–January 2015): The exhibition toured to the Bakhrushin State Theatre Museum in Moscow with the Shooting Shakespeare exhibition.
  • The Jameel Prize 3 (May–November 2014): An exhibition of works by finalists of the Jameel Prize, the award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. The exhibition was shown at the Hermitage Kazan Museum in Kazan (the Republic of Tartastan) and at Moscow’s State Exhibition Hall, the ‘New Manege’.

Other exhibitions curated by the V&A that have toured to Russia in the past include the following:

  • Decode: Digital Design Sensations (February–April 2011): The V&A exhibition of the latest developments in digital and interactive design was shown at the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture in Moscow.
  • Two Centuries of British Fashion (September–November 2008): This exhibition was shown at the Moscow Kremlin Museums. It preceded a major return loan of 18th century costume for Magnificence of the Tsars: Ceremonial Men's Dress of the Russian Imperial Court, 1721-1917 exhibition, shown at the V&A from December 2008 to March 2009.

V&A Loans

The V&A has lent many items from its collections to Russian institutions, including jewellery to the Moscow Kremlin Museums for Russian Emperors and the Armoury Chamber (Spring 2006), items designed by Picasso for ‘The Blue Train’ ballet for Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow (October 2009–January 2010), Man Ray portraits to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow for a touring exhibition by the National Portrait Gallery, London (October 2013–January 2014), Indian jewellery and paintings to the Moscow Kremlin Museums for Indian Jewellery (April–July 2014), and for the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts’ British Design exhibition (October–November 2014).

Of particular note is a large loan of 70 objects, which was sent to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts for display between September 2014 and November 2014 as the part of the Aubrey Beardsley: Oscar Wilde and their Russian Admirers and Followers exhibition.

The V&A also lent 4 objects to the Kremlin Museum’s exhibition on Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 3 September–9 November 2014.

In previous years, the V&A has also received loans from Russia:

  • A large loan of over 100 objects was received from The State Hermitage, St Petersburg, for The Genius of Wedgwood (September 1995).
  • The Tretyakov Gallery and Shchusev State Museum of Architecture lent key objects to the V&A exhibitions Modernism: Designing a New World. 1918-1938 (April-July 2006) and Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970 (September 2008-January 2009).

Learning and audience engagement for adults

  • Alongside the display Russian Avant-Garde Theatre: War, Revolution, and Design, the V&A hosted a symposium on 24 January 2015. The symposium examined the collaborations between experimental artists, performers and directors and their impact and legacy on the visual arts, design and performance today. Speakers included John Bowlt, Natalia Murray, Jane Pritchard, Greer Crawley, Elena Sudakova, and curators from the Bakhrushin Museum, Moscow.
  • Pop-up dance performances and workshops devoted to the Nutcracker ballet were shown at the Museum from 27 December 2014–4 January 2015.
  • A study-day for adults on the subject of Fabergé eggs was held on 29 November 2014.

Learning and audience engagement for families

  • The family event The Imaginary Station took place from 27 December 2014–4 January 2015, exploring the magical and surreal world of turn-of-the-century Russian theatrical design.

Learning and audience engagement for schools

  • Art and Drama students from Wren Academy produced a performance, ‘Lampson Unlocked: ‘Fear God! Fear Nought!’, on 5 December 2014 in collaboration with the National Archives and the V&A. The project was inspired by the War Cabinet entries of Colonel Oliver Locker-Lampson, who was in charge of the armoured car division of the British army and was embroiled in the first Russian Revolution.

Institutional collaborations

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  • A fruitful relationship of exhibition exchanges and co-curated projects has developed between the V&A and the Moscow Kremlin Museums, resulting in touring V&A exhibitions to the Moscow Kremlin Museums (Two Centuries of British Fashion in 2008) and loans from the Moscow Kremlin Museums for exhibitions at the V&A (Magnificence of the Tsars in 2008/9 and The Treasures of the Royal Courts in 2013).
  • The Museum has good connections with the Russian Museum and The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Dr Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovsky, Director of the Hermitage Museum, gave a lecture at the V&A on 7 October 2015 on the publication of his new book.
  • The Museum has also been advising the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture in Moscow on their branding and positioning.
  • During the last two years the V&A established new connections with a number of foundations and institutions, including Stella Arts Foundation, Calvert 22 Foundation, GRAD gallery, ROSIZO, The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, the Smolny Institute, the Moscow State University, Kazan Kremlin State Museum, the Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, the Mariinsky Theatre and the Electro Theatre Stanislavsky, and the “Perspective Ukraine” Foundation.
  • In May 2016 Martin Roth, Director of the V&A, was invited by the University of Moscow to speak at a roundtable on contemporary museum management.

Diplomatic relationships

  • In 2013 the V&A Director, Martin Roth, was invited to join the UK-Russia Year of Culture 2014 Organising Committee (UK side), chaired by Lord Speaker, The Rt Hon. the Baroness D’Souza CMG.

Special projects

  • Russian Decorative Arts seminar series: Tessa Murdoch (Deputy Keeper, Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass) is co-ordinating a series of seminars on Russian Decorative Arts with CCRAC (the Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre) with assistance from Dr Louise Hardiman (Art Historian and CCRAC member), who specialises in late 19th- and early 20th-century Russian art. The first session on Russian textiles and embroidery in the V&A collections was held on 11 March 2016 at the Clothworkers’ Centre, presented by Pamela Smith with an additional contribution from Dr David Mitchell who discussed examples of Russian linen damask napkins from his private collection. These included a napkin with the coat of arms of Catherine the Great, an earlier example to that owned by the V&A. Eileen Budd has produced an illustrated brochure of selected textiles viewed on this occasion. The next session on Friday, 24 June 2016, will focus on Russian Arts and Crafts; the guest speaker is Dr Rosalind Polly Blakesley, Reader in Russian and European Art at the University of Cambridge and the seminar will be chaired by Max Donnelly, Curator in Textiles, Furniture and Fashion. Particular focus will be on the painted wall cupboard designed by Elena Polenova at Abramtsevo, acquired by the V&A in 2004 and currently on display.
  • This Time Tomorrow: Curators from the Design, Architecture and Digital Department held an exhibition on design innovations, which was on display at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in the Swiss Alps, between 20–23 January 2016. The show coincided with the high-powered annual meeting attended by around 3,000 heads of government, business leaders, scientists and economists – including a Russian delegation. The exhibition, curated by Mariana Pestana (Design, Architecture and Digital Curator), received a lot of international press, specifically regarding the display of a 3D-printed portrait of Chelsea Manning’s head, and received 5,000 visitors.
  • Russian Country Houses: In May 2014 Tessa Murdoch, Deputy Keeper of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics & Glass, undertook a Likhachev Cultural Fellowship on the topic of “Life in the Russian Country House”. She presented a ‘Work in Progress’ seminar in the V&A Research Department in October 2014 and a public lecture, ‘Russian Country Houses’, which drew on the V&A’s collection of architectural designs and Russian decorative arts. This lunch-time lecture attracted a strong audience that included Russian and British architectural preservationists, Marcus Binney of SAVE EUROPE’S HERITAGE, Nuna Alekian from Moscow, journalists, Irina Kukota from the Russian Art Newspaper, and many Russian residents in London.
  • The V&A collaborated with the Moscow Kremlin Museums and the English Court Museum, Moscow on the Anglo Russian Conference, Emerging Empires, England and Muscovy in the 16th and 17th Century, which was held at the V&A from 13–15 June 2013. The event was organised in association with the Society for Court Studies and supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.
  • Film about Catherine the Great: Alicia Robinson, Senior Curator Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics & Glass, and Lucy Trench, Interpretation Editor, have been collaborating with Tsarskoye Selo (State Museum Preserve) on a film about Catherine the Great and Neoclassicism, which will be part of the new Europe 1600-1800 Galleries at the V&A. It involved an exploratory visit in April 2013 and four days of filming in September 2013, in St Petersburg and at Tsarskoye Selo.
  • Perm Opera House: In the context of the exhibition Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929, the V&A Theatre and Performance department was invited to advise British architectural practices competing for the rebuilding of Perm Opera House, in Diaghilev’s hometown.

Commercial activities

The CDD Department (formerly VAE) was invited to present at the second Russian Museums Conference held at the Moscow Kremlin Museums, Moscow, in May 2010 to discuss the work of VAE, how it relates to the V&A, and seasonal buying. Four representatives from the Moscow Kremlin Museums, Moscow, participated in a visit to V&A Enterprises in September 2010 to continue discussions on working practices.


  • Emma Volodarskaya, Tessa Murdoch, and Jane Roberts, Emerging Empires: England and Muscovy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: A collection of papers from the conference held at the V&A 14-15 June, 2013 (Moscow: Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages, 2015)
  • Olga Dmitrieva and Tessa Murdoch, Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars (V&A Publishing, 2013)
  • Olga Dmitrieva and Tessa Murdoch, The Golden Age of the English Court: from Henry VIII to Charles I (Moscow, Moscow Kremlin Museum, 2012)
  • Svetlana Amelekhina, Alexey Levykin, and Rosalind Polly Blakesley, Magnificence of the Tsars (V&A Publishing, 2010; ISBN 9781851776047)
  • Jane Pritchard, Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 (V&A Publishing, 2010)
  • Christopher Wilk, Modernism: Designing a New World 1914-1939 (V&A Publishing, 2008)
  • David Crowley and Jane Pavitt, Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970 (V&A Publishing, 2008)
  • David Crowley, Posters of the Cold War (V&A Publishing, 2008)
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