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Dom Icony brings icons to the blind in central Moscow

Created in consultation with the Russian Society for the Blind, Nadezhda Gubina and her husband Igor Vozyakov have created a didactic and tactile exhibition

Moscow

A leading collector of religious icons and his wife have opened a display specially designed for visually impaired visitors. The gallery at the Dom Icony, Moscow (House of Icons), which the collectors founded in 2009, is the idea of Nadezhda Gubina, the wife of Igor Vozyakov, a former executive at the oil and gas company Lukoil. Their collection of icons is said to be the third largest in the world. Their museum is housed in a restored pre-revolutionary mansion in central Moscow.

Nadezhda Gubina was inspired to create the gallery having seen an exhibition for the blind at a history museum in Riga, Latvia. She consulted the Russian Society for the Blind while planning the space.

The tactile display allows visitors to learn about the history, imagery and making of icons. Visitors can touch carved icons and etchings that form the basis of painted ones, sculptures of saints and angels, and the velvet and brocade vestment worn by the clergy. Around 50 pieces are on display, with descriptions in Braille.

Natalya Merzlyutina, an art historian at the museum, says that the display is interesting for all visitors because during the Soviet era many Russians were “blinded” to that part of their history. “Unfortunately, few people know about icons, even followers of Russian Orthodoxy, because of persecution during the 20th century,” says Merzlyutina. “In churches, no one will explain to you how to paint an icon, and museums usually explain very complicated artistic components of them. So this is interesting to those who can see and those who can’t.”

Guests at the opening of the gallery included the blind Georgian pop singer Diana Gurtskaya.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Collectors bring icons to the blind'