The Azerbaijan National Museum of Art (Baku Art Museum) is the largest art museum in Azerbaijan. Named after scenic designer and theatre artist Rustam Mustafayev, it currently comprises two conjoined buildings. Its collection includes over 15,000 artworks, of which more than 3,000 are permanently displayed in around 60 rooms, the earliest of which dates back to the 4th century BC.
The Baku Art Museum named after Rustam Mustafayev is actually comprised of two buildings that stand next to each other. The first building, which serves as the entrance to the museum, houses the European collection. It was once a private residence built for De Bour, the Business Manager for Rothschild’s company, the forerunner of Shell. Later Nariman Narimanov lived there. After then Mirjafar Baghirov took up residence. He was Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Azerbaijan (highest position in the country) from 1933-1953. After Stalin’s death, Baghirov was put on trial and sentenced to death.
The second building, located higher up Niyazi Street just below the President’s Aparat (office) now houses the Azerbaijani art collection. It was originally built in 1885 by the Baku Municipality as the School of St. Mary’s, a high school for Russian girls. Botov, a Russian, designed the building.
In 2001, the Baku Art Museum was declared to be of National and then of European Museum Standard (EMS), and was completely reconstructed in 2006. As the museum celebrates the 80th anniversary of its first exhibition this year, Neil Watson caught up with Professor Chingiz Farzaliyev, Director of the Azerbaijan National Museum of Art.
The Azerbaijani National Museum of Art contains the richest and most varied collection of Azerbaijani art in the country, including works by the foremost Azerbaijani painters from across the centuries.
Numerous 19th century artists are represented in Baku Art Museums collection, including Mir-Mohsun Navvab (1833–1918), who spent his entire life in Shusha, now located in Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh; Mirza Kadym Irevani (1825–75), the founder of Azerbaijani panel painting, who was also an ornamentalist and portraitist; and ornamentalist Usta Gambar Karabakhi (c.1830–1905), also from Shusha, who was responsible for the incredible interior of the Khan’s Palace in Sheki.
The Azerbaijan National Museum of Art also have collections of major 20th century Azerbaijani artists, including Sattar Bahlulzade (1909–74), founder of contemporary Azerbaijani landscape painting; Tahir Salahov (b.1928), one of the leading exponents of the ‘severe style;’ Togrul Narimanbekov (1930–2013), who combined the abstract and figurative with national symbols; and Maral Rahmanzadeh (1916–2008), one of the most evocative Azerbaijani graphic artists.
There are two primary collections in the museum – Azerbaijani art and international art. As would be expected, the collection of national art is more ancient and rich, the oldest pieces dating from the Neolithic period. The collection also includes items from the Bronze Age.
Museum have ceramic pieces found in Nakhchivan, Mingachevir, Fuzuli, Sheki and Goygol, decorated with archaic figures, including candlesticks from the Salcuglu period; 13th century pieces from Bayil Castle; 16th century Korans; Eastern miniatures from the 17th and 18thcenturies; metalwork from the 18th–20th centuries; silk and wooden artworks; national costumes; carpets and jewellery.
Furthermore, Baku Art Museum collections include sculptures, paintings, graphic works and decorative applied artworks from Russia, Asia, Africa and Western Europe. This includes those by some of the foremost European engravers, Dutch and Flemish painters and many exhibits from Russian artists, including Wassily Kandinsky.
Ceramics collection is also unique, comprising pieces from 16th–20th century Italy, France, Germany and Japan, of similar quality to those in some of the world’s leading museums. There are also bronze, marble, granite and wooden sculptures from Western Europe, alongside those from the Near- and Middle East.
Source: Visions of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan International Magazine