Thursday, January 2, 2020

I found a gem!

Stanley - Thursday

When you live in a big city, it often takes visitors to make you explore places you've never visited. This happened to us a few days ago, except this time the visitors were only from St Paul - a mere stone's throw away from Minneapolis. (That is, if you can throw a stone across the mighty Mississippi.)

We were invited to meet our friends at The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) in South Minneapolis - a location that I had passed countless times in my car and barely noticed. And what a surprise it was.
The Museum of Russian Art 
Probably one reason for not knowing that the building was a museum of Russian art is that it doesn't look like a museum of Russian art. In fact, it looks like a Mexican church. This is what the TMORA website has to say about the building.
The building style is Spanish Colonial-Revival, with architectural elements based on the Texas Mission in San Antonio. The façade silhouette resembles Mission San Antonio de Valero, also known as the Alamo. The Rose window and stone carvings are adapted from Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, also in San Antonio. The pierced belfry, multiple arches, Romanesque windows, stucco walls, large wooden beams, and terra cotta tile roofs are all common to the Mission style. 
The (Mayflower) church’s first resident pastor, the Rev. Silas Meckel, traveled south to the Mission Valley and according to his daughter, Bette Meckel Babcock, fell in love with the architecture of the Mission Trail. Upon returning to Minnesota Rev. Meckel requested that the new church building reflect those Texas Missions. According to church member Marguerite Farnham Drake, “That Spanish Mission style was not a Congregational style and it really wasn’t a style appropriate for Minnesota, but it was a style that the Meckels were fond of and the congregation was extremely fond of the Meckels”
The building before its conversion to a museum

The church
So, how did it become a museum? Of Russian art?

Again, excerpted from the TMORA website:
In 1991, Raymond E. Johnson, an art dealer and collector, sponsored the first known retail exhibition of Russian Impressionist paintings in North America. The positive response by American collectors to this exhibition encouraged Johnson to launch a large-scale program to identify the finest examples of Russian Realist paintings from throughout the former Soviet Union. Since then, Ray Johnson and his wife Susan have acquired what is believed to be the largest privately owned collection of Russian Realist paintings outside the borders of the former Soviet Union. 
The Johnsons recognized the importance of their collection and, desiring to create a legacy honoring Russian art, they initiated the idea of a museum dedicated specifically to exhibiting the art of Russia. They founded The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) at a Bloomington, Minnesota location in 2002, and the Museum’s inaugural public exhibition took place that year. In 2005, (after the Mayflower Church had moved across the street) the Museum moved from its original Bloomington site to its current location in Minneapolis.  
The building was then converted into a gorgeous exhibit space, retaining many of the original features of the church.
The main exhibition hall

The view from the gallery
 Exhibits change frequently, and the ones currently are

Here are some of the posters. Pretty much what I expected.

It is wonderful to keep learning. I've known many of Chagall's paintings for a long time. What I didn't know or a long time ago forgot was that he was born in Belarus. Here is the one that I liked the best.

David and Bathsheba (1956)
I also very much liked this piece, called Let him kiss me (1954) by Ben-Zion, who was born in the Ukraine.

Some pieces from Christmas with the Tsars.

And, finally, TMORA boasts an amazing gift shop with everything Russian that you can imagine, including a variety of matryoshka dolls.

Matryoshka dolls with faces of prominent people
However, the item that really caught my eye was not for sale. It was this painting on the wall. As my friend said: 'You can just tell that the milk maid on the right had just told a very funny joke.'

TMORA is a small but delightful museum, well worth a visit when in the Twin Cities.

I wish you all a healthy and happy New Year. Normally, I also usually wish people a peaceful one, but hoping for that may be suspending disbelief too far.


  1. What a fascinating discovery. I need to add this to my agenda for the next trip to Minneapolis.

  2. Stan, my jaw dropped when I saw the architecture of the museum. That the building exists in Minneapolis at all is fascinating. Buon viaggio.