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Fine Arts Museum

One of the largest museums in central Asia, the current buildings opened in 1974. Its initial fund comprised of 100 works of sculpture, paintings, drawings, porcelain by Russian and Western European masters from the collections of the Prince Romanov, an exiled cousin of the tsar, who in turn had probably stolen them from St Petersburg's Hermitage. There are also other private collections of that time, all nationalized by the Soviet government after the revolution. These are displayed on the second floor and include European paintings and sculpture from the 15th-20th centuries, notably Russian icons from Novgorod. Soviet artists like Benkov and Volkov feature throughout, though independence has packed away more propagandist canvases in favour of colourful bazaar scenes.

The Museum was originally called the Museum of National University. Only in 1935 it became the State Museum of Art, and has retained its name ever since. In 1974 the original building was demolished and replaced by a new one of the State Art Museum. Three Soviet architects I.Abdulov, A. Nikiforov and S. Rosenblum designed an unusual for that time building in the form of a huge cube, with its facades divided into squares by metal structures, lined with aluminum sheets on the outside. The building of the State Art Museum was glazed with chrom-brugnatellite, which "smoothened" the bright sunlight and set a comfortable indoor matte illumination.

Some 50,000 paintings and artefacts are held now at the museum, originating not inily from Uzbekistan and Russia but also from Europe.  Uzbek applied art dominates the ground and first floors: ceramics from the ninth to 17th centuries; tile fragments from Samarkand, Shakhrisabz, Bukhara and Khiva; finely carved wooden doors and shutters; 19th century Bukharan court robes heavy with gold embroidery; khanatlas silks and adras silk-cotton cloths; killim-like palas carpets; ornate metalware and much more. Rare glimpses into Uzbekistan's pre-Islamic era comes courtesy of fragments from Bukhar Khudat's seventh century palace in Varakhsha, a heavily restored 7th century Buddha head from Kuva in the Ferghana Valley and some Greek-influenced two-millennia-old statues from Khalchayan in southern Uzbekistan. The earliest pieces, which include sculptures, ceramics and murals, date back to the 1st century bc and are remarkably well preserved. Look here for 9th-century ceramics; tiles from Samarkand, Bukhara and Shakhrisabz; Bukharan court robes weighed down with decadent gold embroidery; and finely carved wooden shutters and doors.

European art works are displayed on the second floor, and the exhibition includes pieces from Prince Romanovs original collection as well as some remarkable medieval Russian icons from Novgorod. Though they are not to everyone's taste, admittedly, and neither are the 20th century Russian landscapes chosen for their lack of controvesy, the standard of exhibits is generally high and whether you have a preference for Russian portraits in oils, Chinese scrolls or Uzbek art from the early Soviet period, there will undoubtedly be something that catches your eye.

Behind the museum is the Fidoliyar or Communards' Garden, laid out in the 1880s and subsequently given over to the graves of heroes, notably Bolsheviks who died in revolutionary street-fighting in 1917, the 14 Turkestan Commissars who fell victim to Ossipov's treachery in 1919, first Uzbek president Yuldush Akhunbabayev and first Uzbek general Sabir Rakhimov.

Address: 16, Movarounahr, Tashkent
Tel.: 998 (71) 236 74 36, 236 34 44
10.00-17.00 Wed-Sun, 10.00-14.00 Mon; local/foreigner 1.000/10,000 som