Brilliantly meta exhibition on now at the Cantor Arts Center. Through San Francisco photographer Andy Freeberg’s lens, we see the women of a certain age who serve as guards in Russia’s state art museums. These stolid ladies sit in their designated chairs with their sensible shoes, never a smile, always watching you. They’re like the teachers who had eyes in the back of their heads.
Now here we stand in a museum watching them watching us, and seeing how over the years they have built invisible bonds with the sculptures and paintings they defend. One woman’s beatific expression matches the holy faces on the wall behind her; another guard makes her coarsely knitted shawl and hair bun seem as regal as the portrait she protects.
Freeberg took these portraits in museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg; then he came to California and photographed several veteran guards at the Cantor, too. These portraits get their own small gallery in the exhibition, along with interviews with the local guards in a short documentary made by Stanford student Josie Johnson.
Pictured: Andy Freeberg’s 2009 archival pigment ink print “Mikhail Nesterov’s ‘Blessed St Sergius of Radonezh,’ Russian State Museum.”