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Museum of Fine Art

Immediately to the west of the Palace of Justice, the Museum of Fine Artis housed in a grand Bouygues construction, a rectangular building with a while central dome, columned exterior, and four bronze lions guarding the corners. It is open 09.00-18.00, except Tuesdays. Admission costs US$10. There is a charge for taking photographs.

From the entrance, you first pass into a huge and largely empty central hall beneath the dome. A few post-independence canvases hang on the walls. Abundance of the Harvest depicts President Niyazov admiring a loaf of bread. A bunch of wheat in the foreground is tied together with a ribbon showing the annual harvest figure of 2,800.000 tonnes of wheat. Behind the central hall is the Independence Hall, centred around a bust of the president. The walls feature canvases of the heroic figures of the regime's nation-building texts: Oguz Han, Togrul Beg, Alp Arslan and the poet Seydi. President Niyazov is featured, in a canvas entitled Ruhnama is my Soul, in which the book, surrounded by a yellow light, is suspended above the president's head like a halo. The president's horse, Yanardag, gets a canvas too.

Behind the Independence Hall is a large area devoted to carpet work, with some colourful Soviet-era tapestries, as well as carpets featuring scenes ranging from melons to the monuments of Dekhistan. There is a selection of portrait carpets, including Nehru, Magtymguly and Pushkin. A carpet entitled Eternal, Just, Magnanimous Serdar features President Niyazov standing in front ot a map of Turkmenistan, which in turn covers the Turkmen flag.

To the right of the central hall is an interesting display of Turkmen painting before 1950. Some canvases depict traditional Turkmen festivals, such as a 1923 work portraying a girl on a swing: part of the Kurban Bayram celebrations. Others reflect Soviet priorities, such as a Victory Day celebration scene from 1946, with the tea-drinking former combatants proudly sporting their medals. But more overtly political canvases from the Soviet period are absent. There are some attractive, brightly coloured works from the 1920s by Olga Misgiryeva, featuring rather aloof-looking girls. Also on this side of the building is a space devoted to Turkmenistan's archaeological sites. Pride of place here goes to the attempt to reconstruct the dragon frieze which once adorned the facade of the mosque at Anau, using fragments of the original, recovered from the site. Sadly it seems that most of this has been lost, and the result is more gap than frieze.

To the left of the central hall is displayed post-1950 Turkmen painting and sculpture. There are many highly colourful canvases, seeming to incorporate the warmth of the Turkmen sun. A large 1966 canvas by Mamcd Mainmcdov of the Turkmen composer Nury Halmammedov depicts its subject leaning against a tree, with a tortured expression, against a bold backdrop of yellow and orange colour. Intricate canvases by Izzat Klichev borrow from the dense patterns characteristic of Turkmen embroidery. Kossek Nurmuradov's 2003 work Turkmans is a dizzying painting of bright colours. In this hall too are several canvases glorifying the heroes identified in Ruhnama and other nation-building works of the Turkmen government. In Courage: Hero of Turkmenistan Atamurat Niyazov, the face of Niyazov's father shines out against those of his war-weary comrades, after their capture by German forces. There is a large and busy painting of the heroic warrior Georogly, as he enters a bustling marketplace.

On the first floor is an eclectic mix of non-Turkmen work. The gallery to the right includes a missable collection of painting, ceramics, carpets and textiles from India, China, Japan and Iran. There is a more interesting selection of Russian art, mostly from the 19th century, including historical (Capture of Kazan, Battle of Sebastopol), rural and religious themes, and several portraits of Russian tsars. There is some pleasant 19th-century Russian porcelain too. The gallery to the left, devoted to western Europe, is an even more mixed bag. Most of the landscapes and portraits are ascribed to unknown Dutchmen, Englishmen, Germans or Spaniards, but there are some big names represented here, albeit with mostly minor works, including Poussin and Tiepolo. There are displays of 18th-century Sevres and Meissen porcelain, including Meissen figurines of a group of musicians and their conductor. The prints on display are stamped with the label of the 'State Museum of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic', revealing something of the origins of the older items in the collection.