A tale of three Bucharest museums.
The director of the Romanian National Art Museum (MNAR), Roxana Theodorescu, told various assembled officials on Wednesday that if they wanted to visit her museum they should do so ‘as quickly as possible,’ because at the rate the museum is having to hand back nationalised works of art to their former owners (from whom they were confiscated in the late 1940s) there will soon, in Theodorescu’s words, ‘not be much left to see.’ (Unlike the British Museum, another massive crime scene, the MNAR is actually handing stolen works of art back to their rightful owners).
It is no surprise then that the museum has for a couple of years now been trying (very successfully) to attract visitors to the amazing former royal palace (in which the museum resides) itself, opening up the former royal living quarters and throne room to guided tours on occasional weekends. These tours (which cost 20 lei per person) have been immensely popular and more are planned for 2015 (although there are no firm dates just yet). The museum’s website usually publishes details of any upcoming tours a couple of weeks in advance of their taking place. You need to reserve a place on a tour: you can call (+4) 021 314 81 19 for more information.
Further along Calea Victoriei at the Romanian National History Museum (MNIR), things are in an even worse state.
Theoretically home to an amazing number of exhibits spread over more than 60 rooms, only a handful are currently on public display. A couple of these (the copy of Trajan’s Column in the lapidarium, and the Romanian crown jewels in the basement) still, just about, make a visit here worthwhile, but the vast bulk of the museum is disappointingly closed, has been for some time (since 2002) and looks like remaining closed until at least 2020 while much-needed renovation and repairs are carried out on the building (a glorious neoclassical palace built in the 1890s). This report (also published on Wednesday) suggests that the museum will close entirely later this year, with the main attractions being moved elsewhere until work (for which funds are now allegedly available) is complete. The prospect of Romania’s National History Museum being closed for almost five years (and that’s if work is completed as scheduled) is not a particularly joyful one.
Still, at least you will be able to carry on taking photos of the utterly bizarre statue of Trajan on the building’s steps.
There is some good news on the museum front, however, in the shape of the Theodor Aman Museum on C.A. Rosetti, between Calea Victoriei and Bulevardul Magheru.
Closed for almost 10 years years it reopened last summer after much restoration and the interior looks better than ever. We were there on Wednesday.
The building which plays host to the museum is one of the finest remaining old residences in Bucharest, although blink and you will miss it, hemmed in as it is by tall blocks. Built in 1868 as a home and studio by painter Theodor Aman it includes a vast amount of the artist’s work: the many murals and frescoes are not the least of these. Look out too for the exterior decorations, the work of sculptor Karl Storck. One of Bucharest’s oldest museums, this place has been welcoming visitors since 1908. A charming treat, and really something of a must.
The museum is open 10am-6pm Wednesday – Sunday. Admission costs 5 lei for adults, while children, students and pensioners pay 2 lei. There is a photography fee of 15 lei (which we refused, on principle, to pay).