The National Art Museum is a cultural house of Belarus. Its holdings are considered one of the biggest in Eastern Europe. Today it is not only a museum/art gallery but also a modern scientific and educational center and an art platform.
The diverse collections of the National Art Museum include over 30,000 items of Belarusian and foreign art.
The State Art Gallery opened in Minsk in 1939. The collection featured works of art taken from the history museums of Minsk, Vitebsk, Mogilev and Gomel, and paintings donated by the Tretyakov Gallery, the Russian Museum, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, and the State Hermitage Museum.
Later new exhibits were added to the collection. Those were unique items brought from castles and mansions of Western Belarus, including from the Nesvizh Castle of the Radziwill family. Among them were Slutsk belts, French tapestry (18th century) and portraits (16th-19th centuries).
This extensive collection (over 2,700 items) was taken from Belarus during the Great Patriotic War. The whereabouts of many of them are still unknown.
When the war was over, the museum tried to build up its collection anew. It purchased paintings by famous Russian artists Boris Kustodiev, Vasily Polenov, Karl Briullov, and Isaac Levitan. Some exhibits were provided by the museums of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
In 1957 the State Art Museum of the BSSR moved into a new magnificent building designed by Mikhail Baklanov. The building was decorated with allegorical sculptures named Art, Sculpture and Fame.
This building became one of the first museum buildings in the history of the Soviet architecture. Today it is depicted on the Br1,000 banknote.
Over the years the museum acquired new valuable assets from private collectors. Masterpieces of Belarusian painting and graphics, icons were exhibited in many countries and aroused a tremendous interest.
In the 1970s-1990s the museum turned into a huge complex incorporating five branches, including the famous castles in Mir and Golshany.
By the end of the 20th century, the holdings of the museum grew so big that only a small portion of the collection could be displayed. The museum needed new premises.
The museum expanded by means of the adjacent buildings where lecture halls and offices for the administration and auxiliary staff were set up. A new building was commissioned after a large-scale renovation in 2007.
By combining history and modernity, architect Vitaly Belyankin sought to materialize the concept of "the city under one roof". The interior was decorated with classic columns and arcs and a glass dome instead of a roof.
The building is 8,902 square meters big. Besides the exposition, it accommodates a depository of works of art and restoration workshops fitted with the latest equipment. Visitors can have an excursion to these workshops and watch restorers at work.
The new halls display masterpieces of art of ancient and modern Belarus, Western Europe, the East, and Russia.
Today the National Art Museum of Belarus houses over 30,000 items: 20 miscellaneous collections and two main representative ones dedicated to the national and world art that feature works by artists from the countries of Western Europe and Asia of the 15-20th centuries.
The unique collection of the Belarusian art includes works of ancient icon painting, sculpture, woodcarving, textile, paintings from the 19th century, works of decorative and applied arts, and works of arts from the 20th century.
The National Art Museum has a number of branch museums:
The National Art Museum conducts scientific research and restoration works, expands its library holdings and updates the electronic catalogue in order to exchange images of works of art with other Belarusian and world’s museums.
The museum participates in the preparation of books and albums of art. In 2011 the museum created the series of books Famous Artists of Belarus dedicated to the artists of the 19-20th centuries.
The museum does not only host exhibitions by Belarusian and foreign artists but also organizes lectures and interactive tours. Over 20 years the National Art Museum has been operating a children's art workshop.
Today the museum is also an art platform that hosts meetings with artists and art critics, literary and music evenings, presentations of books, and painting workshops.
An art cafe opened at the National Art Museum in 2013. The cafe hosts exhibitions, screenings of films about the Belarusian art, and concerts.
Every year the National Art Museum participates in the international campaign Night of Museums: the museum offers its visitors to see expositions for free and entertains them with unusual programs. The collection grows larger with new acquisitions and the gifts from art patrons. Since recently it features graphic works by Marc Chagall. The museum is also planning to acquire masterpieces by Ferdynand Ruszczyc and other Belarusian artists, and a Slutsk belt.
The National Art Museum maintains cooperation ties with many museums. It often organizes joint exhibition projects with the leading museums and galleries of the world in Belarus and abroad. The most recent remarkable projects held in Minsk include:
The project to create the first museum quarter in Minsk around the National Art Museum was launched several years ago.
The museum quarter is expected to unite a complex of galleries and leisure infrastructure.
It will include new pavilions with Belarusian works of art, paintings and souvenir shops which will sell artwork by modern painters and replicas of works by classic painters, art books and cards…
The museum quarter will have a glass-roofed patio, a sculpture park, a café and an art restaurant which will showcase artwork and live music.
The tickets cost from Br5 to Br16,50 (you have to pay extra for using photo and video cameras). The museum can be visited for free on the last Wednesday of the month.
The museum hosts lectures, group and individual tours. Prices for group tours (5-25 people) vary from Br10 to Br20. Visitors can use audio guides in Russian, English and Belarusian.
Interactive programs are available for students and all amateurs of art.
The museum is open from 11:00 to 18:30 every day except Tuesday.
The National Art Museum is located in the center of Minsk not far from Nezavisimosti Avenue. Address: 20 Lenina Street. The most convenient transport to the museum is metro, stations Oktyabrskaya and Kupalovskaya. It is also possible to take buses No. 100, 111 to the station Ulitsa Lenina.