Guardians of Russian Art Museums

 Images Guard Pushkin Museum1
Andy Freeberg created a fantastic series of photographs of the female "Guardians of Russian Art Museums." From his artist statement:
I found the guards as intriguing to observe as the pieces they watch over. In conversation they told me how much they like being among Russia’s great art. A woman in Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery Museum said she often returns there on her day off to sit in front of a painting that reminds her of her childhood home. Another guard travels three hours each way to work, since at home she would just sit on her porch and complain about her illnesses, “as old women do.”
Guardians of Russian Art Museums (Thanks, Tara McGinley!)


  1. I’ve often wondered why this untapped labor force of old women hasn’t been utilized to stop the spread of resistant bacteria in hospitals. rather than limp-wristed notes urging people to use the hand sanitizer, a corps of sharp-eyed, viper-tongued babushkas would make bloody sure all washed their hands – even the damned, arrogant doctors.

  2. I agree with #1, and do think that many of society’s ails could be solved through direct application of grannies.

  3. Using grannies is the nuclear option. There’s no telling what they might do if they see something that troubles them.

  4. What a wonderful post!

    Check the first one at the Stroganov. What painter could resist her? I’m in love.

  5. I went to Russia in the mid-’90’s and saw grannies all over the place. They patrol the streets at night, keep kids in line. Not that I wasn’t able to buy Stoli as 15 year old, mind you.

  6. This is the second time BoingBoing has featured a photo series by someone I know personally… and I don’t even know many photographers!

    Rock on, Andy!

  7. I also went to Russia in the mid-’90’s and saw the Rembrandt etchings in St. Petersburg. Sitting on a cheap wooden kitchenchair was a big man in a leather jacket and an AK47. Quite the cultureshock.

  8. It’s bad enough to be parked there, but to be parked between copies and not originals! The featured granny should ask for a reassignment.

  9. @HOKANO beat me to it!

    I met a granny once (but at the Philly art museum, and not Russian) and it was absolutely one of the most charming conversations I’ve ever had. Obviously largely unschooled but knew so much about the art around her, in a completely human, anecdotal way. Anyway, she sounds a lot like the one described above.

  10. Ahhh the famous Nyet Nyet ladies!

    I visited russia in 1998 and have “fond” memories of the Nyet Nyet ladies. So called because any time you try to do… well… anything! – they are there waving their finger at you saying “NYET! NYET!”

    Not only did they grace the museums but hotels also had a legion of nyet nyet ladies – one of whom i was forced to beg and plead with to be let into the floor my room was on – having arrived back at the hotel sometime after 1am.

    Thankfully i was eventually taken pity upon and she let me past those glass doors separating the lift foyer from the actual rooms… I was not looking forward to sleeping in an elevator… nyet nyet

  11. Did you ever see the film on PBS about the “Hermitageniks”? They’re inspirational in the way they love the collections while being underpaid and underfunded. Their caring for the museum goes back through WW2.

  12. Russia has approximately 24 years difference in life expectancy between women and men. If this is not the highest gap in the world then it must be pretty close.
    Although the low life expectancy for men is tragic in many respects it seems to work out pretty well for Russian society as a whole since scores of widowed women are free to contribute to society rather than looking after a poorly husband.
    Perhaps all Western societies have something to learn here? Free vodka to all men over 35 or something?

  13. IIRC, the difference in life expectancy was hugely widened around WWII due to the large number of men killed both in combat and in various purges. I wonder what the modern causes would be?

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