“We just wanted to go straight for the icons, and then open it up,” he said. “That’s our trajectory, and it’s deliberate.”
Matryoshkas are just the beginning. In the next few years, the museum plans to exhibit folk art, Soviet political posters, photographs from Siberia, and Russian depictions of Saint Nicholas. Russell would also like to curate exhibits on samovars and 20th-century Russian abstract drawings. But the museum will retain its strong focus on traditional, sacred items. In 2015, an exhibit on the origins of the Russian icon will feature the oldest Russian icon and one of the oldest Byzantine icons, on loan from the British Museum, where it is currently on display.
Lankton, who is 82, wants the museum he created to continue to adapt, while retaining a strong focus on his core icon collection.
“We have a 100-year plan,” he said. “We spend a lot of time thinking about all the things that can go wrong. Some museums start to slowly go downhill if they don’t bring enough variety. We are a specific museum, but we will have a lot of variety.”
Benjamin Soloway can be reached at email@example.com.