The Nicholas Roerich Museum is situated in the very heart of Moscow, on the territory of the Lopoukhins’ ancient city estate. It hardly resembles other art museums and galleries. Its history and fate are as unique and unusual as the life of the man whose name it bears.
To Svetoslav Nikolayevich Roerich belongs the initiative to build the first cultural institution of a new type in the country, the Nicholas Roerich Public Museum, in honor of a great painter, thinker, versatile scientist, talented pedagogue, and famous public figure. The Museum was established as a public cultural center according to Svetoslav Roerich’s understanding of Сulture. Since, in his opinion, a cultural organization must not be a state organization, but a public one. As S. Roerich had predicted, a considerable independence in the use of new approaches together with the potential for wide-ranged cultural initiatives and a versatile collaboration with the International community beyond any departmental barriers, allowed to create in Russia a unique synthetic cultural center. A Museion of the 21st century was established: an emanation of the new times and new cultural and historical tasks.
The Museum contents comprises the Roerichs’ priceless cultural heritage passed on to the Soviet Roerichs’ Foundation (now International Center of the Roerichs) by Svetoslav Roerich in 1990. Exceptionally rich in terms of artistic, philosophic and scientific content, it carries in itself a new cosmic world view for which new interest grows more each year.
The core of the Roerichs’ heritage is the philosophy of cosmic reality – the Living Ethics, which develops the idea of a close relationship between man and Cosmos, contains knowledge which assists in understanding the specific features peculiar to the new evolutionary stage of mankind’s development.
The Museum exhibition, created by the Nicholas Roerich Museum General Director Ludmila Shaposhnikova reflects the key stages in life and the creative path of our great compatriots and acquaints the visitors with their truly dedicated activities. Unique exhibits saturated with spiritual energy fill the ancient vaulted halls with a special aura.
Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerichs’ canvases, reflecting the cosmic character of world perception, allow the visitor to come into contact with the endless and magnificent world of the Beauty. Through color and symbols the philosophical ideas of the Living Ethics are reflected in these canvases.,. Here we find various relics, gifts from the Roerichs’ Spiritual Teacher, manuscript and art rarities, books and monographs from the Roerichs’ Memorial Library together with personal belongings and objects that accompanied them in their long wanderings, photo documents and a collection of ancient bronzes from the Indian valley of Kulu. All this and many other things comprise the Nicholas Roerich Museum permanent exhibit, which expands the circle of usual images, making one strive for cognition of the new cosmic reality. Thanks to Maecenases, the Museum exposition is constantly replenished with new exhibits, including Roerichs’ priceless paintings.
The peculiarity of the Museum’s art collection is the extensive collection of Himalayan sketches painted by N. Roerich. It is especially these sketches that constitute the basis for the traveling exhibitions shown in Russia, in CIS countries, and in other places abroad. The Nicholas Roerich Museum is the only one in the country that organizes moving exhibitions in the most remote corners of Russia, not confining itself to major cities and cultural centers. This gives millions of people an opportunity to come into contact with the Roerichs’ amazing canvases.
The Nicholas Roerich Museum distinctive features are its versatile cultural and scientific activities, which go far beyond the framework of traditional museum work. In the Museum halls annual International conferences dedicated to important issues of culture and science are held where well-known scientists and public figures participate..: The exhibitions of modern painters-cosmists are diplayed here;as well as classical music concerts and lectures by leading representatives of science and specialists in the field of philosophy, history, culture, and pedagogy.; Children’s drawing competitions, festivals of ethnic culture, exhibitions of folk crafts and creative function events are also organized. Moreover, the Museum actively collaborates with many state and public organizations, including international ones.
Thus, during its existence, the Nicholas Roerich Museum, a non-governmental and dynamically developing institution, has turned into a truly unique spiritual and cultural Russian Center for the preservation, development and popularization of the Roerich’s family philosophical and artistic heritage and lifetime achievement – the philosophy of cosmic reality – the Living Ethics.
One cannot help noting the exceptional leading role in the establishment and development of the Nicholas Roerich Museum of its unchanging General Director, Svetoslav Roerich’s authorized representative and testamentary executor, the International Center of the Roerichs First Vice-President, the RF Honored Worker for the Arts, the academician Ludmila Vassilievna Shaposhnikova, who determines all the principal trends of the museum’s life.
To her, an outstanding scientist and talented organizer truly dedicated to Culture, Svetoslav Roerich entrusted to bring his parents’ unique legacy to their Motherland, and it is her whom he recommended as the Museum’s leading figure, in all ways supporting all her initiatives.
Restored from ruins and reconstructed with a lot of love, the Lopoukhins’ estate (17th – 19th centuries), the main building of which constitutes the Nicholas Roerich Museum, together with the re-created “Krasnoye” (“Red”) porch (17th century) and the Roerich family’s memorial sculptural complex have turned the Museum into an authentic architectural and artistic ensemble of the Russian capital. All works have been completed thanks to the support of Maecenases and many friends of the Museum. This has occured without any funding on behalf of the state, which confirms the viability and efficiency of publicly funded forms of cultural organizations.
However, bureaucrats could not tolerate losing the possibility of managing the cultural values passed over by S. Roerich to a publicly funded museum. Up until the present day, various state departments have attempted to paralyze and destroy its activity. And this as well bestowes a certain “uniqueness” on the museum. There is hardly any other museum in the world against which the state would wage a shameless and merciless war for almost two decades, a war aimed at its complete destruction. Until now, 288 canvases by Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich, from our Museum’s permanent diplay, are illegally retained by the State Museum of Oriental Art.
The Roerichs’ heritage is the key to the most important creative achievements of mankind. Its significance for the fate of Russia and the whole world cannot be overestimated. Protection of this Heritage and its development for the sake of Russia’s future is our immediate duty and obligation.