NOT LONG AGO, WHEN I was visiting the Hermitage in Leningrad, I came upon something that astonished me: a medium-large painting by Claude Monet was framed in a cheap, nonreflecting glass that, with a sort of milky effect, filtered away almost half of the image. On my trip to the Pushkin Museum in Moscow I again found these panes—this time over portraits by Dutch masters—which transformed these masterworks into what resembled poorly reproduced plates from a calendar.

Of course, behind this act of passive massacre there stands the honorable intention of protecting the work of art. But in the presence of these silent, blind works there seemed to me—the astonished visitor from the West—to be a symbol, as evocative as any others I had observed, of the impediments to free communication and cultural access in the Soviet Union. How else to explain that an institution with an average of ten thousand

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the December 1989 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.