MIGRATION AND MEMORY: Jewish Artists of the Russian and Soviet Empires

October 12, 2017 – January 28, 2018

Migration & Memory: Jewish Artists of the Russian and Soviet Empires features nearly 60 works drawn from the Vladimir and Vera Torchilin Collection that explore the creative responses as well as historical trajectories of Jewish artists born, trained, or active in the Russian as well as Soviet Empires in the twentieth century. Organized by Boston’s Ballets Russes Arts Initiative and presented by the Museum of Russian Icons, it is curated by BRAI’s Executive Director, Anna Winestein, and structured around the themes of migration and memory that are central to the Jewish experience in this period.

The opening of Migration & Memory coincides with the centenary of the October Revolution of 1917, which transformed the landscape of choices and options for Russian Jewry, including artists, in many positive ways while also bringing enormous displacement and violence. Nearly all the items on display date from the 20th century, primarily from the period between the start of World War I in 1914 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Highlights include works by Alexandre Altmann, Boris Anisfeld, Eugene Berman, Sonia Delaunay, Moshe Kogan, Solomon Gershov, Anatoly Kaplan, El Lissitzky, Oscar Rabin, Savely Sorine, Moses and Raphael Soyer, Eduard Steinberg, Nikolai Suetin, Alexander Tyshler, Solomon Yudovin, and Osip Zadkine. Creations of nearly 50 different artists: paintings, drawings, prints, posters, and illustrated books, as well as three-dimensional objects, will be on view. The works in the exhibition were not all created within the territory of Imperial Russia or the Soviet Union, but they carry within them a complex legacy, of both opportunity and suffering, cooperation and hatred, inclusion and alienation.

Vladimir and Vera Torchilin’s collection started with Vladimir’s parents who lived in Moscow and were friendly with several notable Soviet artists, including some who were Jewish. Vladimir began his collecting as a bibliophile, an interest that coincided with his love of writing poetry and prose—he is the author of numerous novels, volumes of short stories and essays. The Torchilins moved to the US in the early 1990s and after the fall of the Soviet Union were successful in bringing out a large portion of their families’ collection, to which they have continued to add voraciously. Their collection as a whole primarily focuses on Russian and Soviet art, not only by creators of Jewish heritage, but also includes works by European and American artists. They also continue to collect rare books, mostly in Russian.

Dr. Vladimir Torchilin is a leading biochemist, pharmacologist, and specialist in nanomedicine, author of 450 scientific papers, and holder of over 40 patents. He is currently University Distinguished Professor at Northeastern University and Director of its Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and Nanomedicine. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Lenin Prize of the USSR in Science and Technology (the highest scientific award in the former USSR). Vera Torchilin worked in wealth management, finishing her career as a Second Vice President at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

Anna Winestein is an historian of art and theater, independent curator, and cultural entrepreneur. She is Executive Director and co-founder of the Ballets Russes Arts Initiative (, a Boston-area non-profit that follows in the tradition of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes by promoting international creative exchange in the fine and performing arts, especially with the post-Soviet region. She also consults collectors, dealers and museums, and previously served as Creative Director for the Hermitage Museum Foundation. Exhibitions Ms. Winestein has curated include The Golden Age of the Ballets Russes for Sotheby’s Galerie Charpentier in Paris, and The Magical Reality of Alexandre Benois at the Boston Public Library, for which she also wrote the catalogues. Co-editor and co-author of The Ballets Russes and the Art of Design (Random House, 2009), as well as Loyalties and Solidarities in Russian Society, History and Culture (University College London, 2013), Ms. Winestein has published in academic journals and contributed essays to numerous exhibition catalogues and joint volumes. Her research interests include Russian art 1850 to today, European modernism, 20th century dance and theater history, cultural exchange between Russia and Europe in late Imperial times, and the Russian emigration.

Ms. Winestein has been a Cultural Envoy for the US State Department and is a former Fulbright Scholar. A Quadruple Terrier: BUA ’00, CAS ’04 (Art History), CFA ’04 (Painting), GRS ’05 (MA Economics). She is finishing a doctorate in Modern History at Oxford University; her dissertation examines social and professional networks among Russian artists in Paris 1870-1917. Ms. Winestein is an associate of the Davis Center at Harvard University. She has also organized a number of conferences, lectures and other events in collaboration with Boston University, including the Spirit of Diaghilev academic conference in 2009 and a staging of the Russian futurist classic, Victory Over the Sun in 2014.

Organized by Ballets Russes Arts Initiative

Media Sponsorship by Artscope Magazine
Nina Aizenberg. Costume design for a Soviet pioneer youth. c. 1930s. Watercolor on paper. Vladimir and Vera Tochilin Collection. Image courtesy of Ballets Russes Arts Initiative.
Anatoly Kaplan, Evening Tea, Tempera on Board, 1969. Collection of Vladimir and Vera Torchilin, image courtesy of Ballets Russes Arts Initiative


September 26, 2017 – March 18, 2018

This mini-exhibit showcases a series of twelve decorative plates designed and crafted by accomplished artists from Palekh, and Kholui, to Fedoskino. Each plate illustrates a different Russian fairytale. The myths and legends of Russia are provide a window into a fascinating and diverse culture. Generously donated by Robert Laroucque in 2017.






Now through June 17, 2018

The recent donation of an exceptional collection of 18th and 19th century Russian icons and sacred artifact from Boston area collectors Edward and Joan Simpson is the largest and most valuable single gift since founder Gordon B. Lankton established the Museum of Russian Icons in 2006. The gift fills in some of the missing pieces in the chronological history of the Russian icon in the collection, bringing the Museum closer to being an encyclopedic collection tracing the entire arc of the development of the sacred arts in Orthodox Russia. In celebration of this historic milestone, the Museum has created a special exhibition of twenty-four icons in the Auditorium Gallery.

(At left: Pure Soul, 19th c.)