The Grabar Art Conservation Center in Moscow has opened the Ovchinnikov Ikonoteka—a special exhibition space for icons named in honour of the restorer and master copier of icons and frescoes, Adolf Ovchinnikov. The copies on display, made by Ovchinnikov between 1958 and 2016, trace the history of copying in Russia—a practice developed to record religious works threatened by age, neglect and Soviet anti-religious campaigns. The Ikonoteka also holds classes in restoration methods and has programming that encourages contemporary artists to engage with icons.

Ovchinnikov, who still practises his craft at the age of 86, donated 1,700 copies of icons to the Ikonoteka. His approach to restoring these works, which form the basis of Russian cultural and spiritual heritage, is called “copy-reconstruction” and is like a Stanislavsky method of restoration, where the restorer becomes one with the work in order to understand the intentions of its creator. Ovchinnikov feels that restorers, like iconographers, must not take credit for their works. “Iconographers are called upon by society,” says Alexander Gormatyuk, the Ikonoteka’s director who interprets Ovchinnikov’s often complex thoughts. Gormatyuk adds: “The creator of a copy-reconstruction is called upon by the icon.” Read more