‘We are not Exiles, we are Messengers’: George Riabov and his Collection of Russian Theatre Design (USA)


This article is devoted to the history of George Riabov’s collection of Russian art. Among art collections outside of Russia, the George Riabov Collection of Russian Art is unique due to its scope. It includes icons from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, graphic arts and sculpture from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, as well as ‘lubki’, posters and illustrated books from the early 1900s to the 1930s, nonconformist art of the former Soviet Union from the 1960s–1970s, and the works of Russian émigré artists. Consisting of important works of Russian art across the centuries, the Riabov Collection also features some major examples of stage and costume designs for theater, ballet, and opera created by the early twentieth-century artists. In 1990, Riabov donated his vast collection to The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (USA). The article traces the history of the Riabov collection and also places a number of important costume and stage designs in the collection in the context of the development of Russian theatrical design in pre- and post-revolutionary era.

Keywords: Riabov collection, Russian art, theater design, émigré artists, World of Art, Ballets Russes, art collecting

[1] Struve, N. A. The Exiles and the Messengers. Retrieved from http://abzubov.com/page1030626.html.

[2] Riabov, G. (1990). Speech Delivered at the Meeting of Members of the Board of Trustees of the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University During the Transfer of his Collection. Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA.

[3] Fokin, M. (1919). Manuscript of the Article for the Newspaper Vore Herrer (Copenhagen). Quoted in Yakovleva, E. P. (Ed.) (1993). Roerich and Theater. Postcard set, issue 2. Moscow: International Roerich Center.