If you feel as though
17th Century Dutch and Flemish art seems to have had a monumental
resurgence in popularity in the past decade, you are not alone. And it is also
not your imagination. For proof, you need only look to Moscow, where 82
paintings and drawings by Rembrandt and his contemporaries are currently on
view at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the largest museum of European
art in Russia.
But what you may not realise is that every work in that exhibition belongs to two Americans – Thomas and Daphne Kaplan of New York. The couple began collecting the works in 2003, and in just 15 years has amassed the largest collection of its kind in the world. They have never lived with a single piece from the collection, which is why they are almost single handedly responsible for the sense we all have that this genre of art has re-emerged in importance recently. They have loaned the work out 170 times in the past decade to exhibitions at more than 40 institutions all over the world.
The current exhibition in Moscow is the largest yet assembled. After it closes, it will travel to The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg in the same form. Amazingly, the Kaplans have never made a dime off the exhibitions of their collection. They see the process as purely philanthropic. As Mr Kaplan told The Moscow Times in anticipation of the opening of the Pushkin exhibit, “until very recently we were anonymous collectors. The collection is not named after ourselves – it is named after Rembrandt’s birthplace. And that’s the way we wanted it.”
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