Federal State Institution of Culture

Russian State
Art Library

"Art to help the arts"

The Russian State Art Library is 95 Years Old!

Date: 19.06.2017


The primary specialised arts library in Russia is marking its 95th anniversary. It is hard to imagine that in the years of wars and revolutions that the “Grand Old Men” of the Maly Theatre managed to create an innovative structure that was designed to become a co-author of theatrical productions, and later—films. The work never ceases, not even during jubilees.

Reported by Yulia Kazyukova.

Classes of the Department of the Stage Costume at the School-Studio of the Moscow Art Theatre (MXAT). Baroque. Louis XIV’s relationship with Molière. To understand Tartuffe, it is essential to grasp the authentic detail of the era. Natalia Ezdina is the creator of techniques to do so that have been in service for three decades.

“This is what Stanislavsky dreamt about. He had notes about the creation of a school in MXAT, and he wanted it in the theatre. He said that a library and museum are required for every creative,” Russian State Art Library (RSAL) employee and teacher at the School-Studio MXAT Natalya Ezdina says.

Stanislavsky’s dream came to fruition in 1922, when Rector Alexander Fomin of the Maly Theatre School not only donated a collection of unique books, but offered to turn the library into a living organism for theatre workers.

“All exams, all sessions, we spent here, where we ate, slept, read. And most of the books in my life—80 per cent, I read here,” the Rector of the School-Studio MXAT Igor Zolotovitsky admits.

Library-Laboratory and Library-Museum. In addition to rare books, here are unique photos, handwritten materials, collections of videos, and theatrical sketches.

In the exhibition hall, there are constantly changing exhibitions. Now you can unravel “The Secrets of Red Shoes.” The exhibition is from Nasim Mustafayev’s collection. There are Chinese women’s shoes, similar to a child’s, and European shoes for a very narrow foot.

“After Dyagilev’s Seasons, Russian- and Tatar-style boots came into fashion. They were sewn for export and sold in France. There is a well-known picture in one of these displays of Isadora Duncan standing in similar boots with Sergei Yesenin,” says RSAL Head Librarian Svetlana Bolshakova.

A completely modern library with online resources and unique collections occupies just half of a historic house in the theatre district. RSAL Director Ada Kolganova said that the library’s capabilities would have substantially increased if the mansion had been completely passed to it.

“We have a project with views of how the courtyard should look with a stage in the yard, seats for readers, bookstores, and display cases with changing exhibitions. This space would work for the city,” said the Director of the Russian State Art Library Ada Kolganova.

But meanwhile, RSAL is forced to share the building with the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor). And the dreams about premieres, movie screenings, and master classes remain only dreams.

TV Channel Kultura