The director of Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery, Zelfira Tregulova, has reportedly been ousted from her post after a complaint about the “destructive ideology” of work displayed there. The art historian had been in the post since 2015 but the Ministry of Culture failed to renew her contract and has announced that Elena Pronicheva, whose father had been a top official of the Federal Security Service (FSB) under Vladimir Putin, is taking her place.
The Moscow Times reported last month that the culture ministry had demanded that Tregulova respond to the complaint of a museum visitor who said that the Tretyakov’s exhibitions do not correspond to Putin’s policies on “traditional Russian spiritual and moral values”.
According to an official biography, Pronicheva was born in Melitopol, a Ukrainian city now occupied by Russian troops, and has a degree in “comparative politics”. She has also worked for Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled energy company, before becoming the deputy director of development at VDNKh, a Stalin-era fairground company. In 2013 she was appointed as executive director of Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, and in 2020 of the Polytechnic Museum.
Pronicheva’s sister, Ekaterina, held posts in Moscow’s culture department and the federal culture ministry before heading VDNKh, which under her watch became home to Russia–My History, an ideological exhibition, and announced plans to turn the fairground into an international museum complex. In 2022, Ekaterina was appointed director of the Unesco-listed Vladimir-Suzdal Museum-Reserve.
Tregulova, who has also worked at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the MoscowKremlin Museums, is known for her extensive international ties. She was an intern at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1993-94 and a co-curated the Amazons of the Avant-Garde exhibition there in 2000. In 2016 works from the Vatican Museums’ Pinacoteca were shown at the Tretyakov. In 2018 she announced that Rem Koolhaas would redesign the New Tretyakov building.
The Tretyakov faced multiple scandals last year, including abrupt cancellation by the culture ministry of the Moscow Art Biennale, which was to show artists from the illegally annexed Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.
State Hermitage Museum director Mikhail Piotrovsky, a vocal supporter of the war, defended the Tretyakov earlier this month, calling dissemination of the complaint against it “a pure provocation” and saying that “denunciation should not become our national genre”.