This crumbling museum in a bleak town by a dried-out sea has one of the world’s greatest collections of avant-garde art, rescued from Stalin’s clutches. But without urgently needed help, it will die I am sitting at a huge table at the Ministry of Culture in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, as officials explain what sounds like a wonderful opportunity. There’s currently an international call-out to find someone to run a gallery in the country, one housing the world’s second-largest collection of Russian avant garde art. What an amazing job, I think – raising the profile of a museum that could turn out to be the Louvre of central Asia. But the dream job may not be quite so dreamy. The next day, at a godawful hour, I get up to fly to Nukus in northern Uzbekistan, where this “museum of forbidden art” is located. En route, I blearily note that even the guidebooks can find little to say about this “unappealing city”. It seems the only other reason people venture there is for a spot of “disaster tourism”.
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