The longtime director of Moscow’s Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Marina Loshak, has stepped down from her position. She will be replaced by the director of a state-run architecture museum in Moscow, Elizaveta Likhacheva.
Her resignation comes as pressure on Russia’s museum network continues to escalate following the country’s invasion into Ukraine.
Loshak, who was born in the Ukraine and emigrated to Moscow in the late 1980s, resigned from the role after a ten-year stint at the state-run museum, which is focused on exhibiting European art. Loshak, an historian of Russian avant-garde art, fostered rapport with the international art community through Pushkin’s efforts to partner with museums abroad.
In a press conference announcing her departure on Monday, Loshak called for the museum’s incoming leadership to promote “new thoughts” and to “continue what others started.” The move is the latest turnover of leadership at a major Russian museum.
The change in leadership comes as the Russian government continues to campaign for nationalist ideas to be promoted in the country’s museum settings. The mandate was set into motion after a 2022 law was passed detailing the move as a “strategic national priority.”
Loshak’s contract as the museum’s director ends next month. She has denied her departure is the result of political pressure from the culture ministry, which oversees the museum’s operations.
Her resignation is one of several other high profile departures of curators from Russian museums opposing Russia’s war in Ukraine. In March 2022, the Pushkin’s deputy director, Vladimir Opredelenov, resigned from his post in protest of the Russian cultural ministry amid the invasion.
The move also comes just weeks after Zelfira Tregulova was replaced as head of the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow; Tregulova held the position since 2015. The choice of her replacement, Elena Pronicheva, whose has family ties to the Russian military, has been criticized by cultural advocates abroad. Likhacheva, who currently serves as the director of the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture, has ties to Russian’s pro-Kremlin movements.
Loshak’s relatives have also been targeted amid the government’s crackdown on political dissidents. Her daughter and nephew, both journalists, fled Russia after being labeled as “foreign agents” after the start of the war in February 2022.
Earlier this month, CIMAM (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art), a global network of museums and museum professionals that is based in Spain, raised the alarm over the removal of Tregulova, by the Russian culture ministry. A representative for the group told ARTnews that the the politically-motivated ousting of “field experts” ongoing in Russia is a “growing phenomenon.”