Trans Eurasia travel

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State Museum Of Art

In the south-west corner of former Frunze square lies the first tsarist Central Asian Bank (1912) in Bukhara, designed by the same architects as the Emir's Summer Palace. The bank became the Bukhara State Museum a decade later, and slowly took on an artistic focus, with works by native Bukharans and painters from other parts of the Soviet Union who spent formative years here.

The ground floor is taken up with clothing, including some fine embroidered slippers, but the main draw is the upper floor art gallery. Among the most evocative works are those by Pavel Benkov (1879-1949), a Russian from Kazan who settled in Samarkand and painted in Bukhara from 1928-1930. Also notable is a series of local artisan portraits by Michael Kurzin (1888-1957), a native of Siberia's Altai region who spent much of the 1940s here, often painting on disused cardboard when materials grew short. The most famous picture, 'The Fall of the Bukharan Emirate', depicts a cowering procession of rich merchants and beys in front of the 'victorious masses', and took Tashkent artist Ruzi Chariev ten years to complete (1964). It's currently on loan to Tashkent. Many of the newer paintings on the ground floor are for sale, with prices cheaper and quality higher than most other bazaars. The museum is open 9am to 5pm, until 3pm on Mondays and closed on Tuesdays.

The 'department of art expertise' off the central courtyard offers 'expertise documents' for US$4 to help tourists take old looking but not genuine antiques out of the country. Bring your passport and two photos of the 'antique'.