The exhibition Masquerade for New Year unfolds the story of New Year celebrations in Soviet Russia. The exhibition features a rich display of New Year masks, tree ornaments, family photographs, Grandfather Frost figurines, and other related materials from the late 1930s through 1960s. These rare and fascinating objects are drawn from Kim Balaschak’s extensive donation to our Museum, as well as the private collection of Blaine Bolden. The Museum  greatly appreciates the unique vision of the collectors who have assembled extraordinary arrays of artifacts from the bygone Soviet era and contributed to our exhibitions and collections in many meaningful ways.

Masks are both familiar and mysterious. Through millennia, humans donned masks to participate in pagan rituals, religious ceremonies, festive carnivals, theatre performances, fancy ball parties, and rustic merry-making. During the devastating plague epidemics in 17th century Europe, physicians wore bird masks with long beaks: the beaks contained aromatic herbs to quench the smell. Soviet New Year celebrations often included carnival parties where participants wore masks and costumes. At a Soviet-era masquerade, one could meet characters of Russian folk tales and literary heroes: Baba Yaga, Snow Maiden, Doctor Aibolit, Onion Boy Cipollino, Puss-in-Boots, Grey Wolf, and other colorful guises.

Masquerade for New Year is on view in the Museum’s Lower Gallery from November 9, 2020 to January 10, 2021.

The Museum of Russian Art would like to thank Moore’s Insurance Management, Inc. for sponsoring this exhibition.

All objects and photographs featured above are from the collection of Kim Balaschak.