Arts, Culture & Media

Russian icons in Massachusetts

When Gordon Langdon was 23 he worked in espionage. Two years later, in 1956, he went around the world on a motorcycle. He fell in love with everywhere. But he really wanted to visit the Soviet Union but couldn't. But then when the Soviet Union broke up in 1989, GL had built a small fortune from plastics manufacturing, a global business based in a small town in Massachusetts. By 1989 he had built factories almost all over the world. So he decided he wanted one in Moscow. The other half of the story is about how GL picked up a hobby in Moscow collecting Russian icons, meaning religious paintings. These paintings, for Orthodox Christians aren't just paintings, but are living, breathing, spiritual objects�a gateway to prayer. Each painting is supposed to be a path to direct communication with God. The icon tradition speaks a timely visual language, the story of Christ and the such. Now that history wasn't on GL's mind when he first picked up a painting in 1989 for $20. but he liked that painting enough to start a collection. Today he owns over 300 of them and he's built an Icon Museum in Clifton next to his plastics company. The museum has so much stature that it's now hosting an exhibition from a world famous gallery in Moscow. GL's own collection is now worth more than multiple million dollars, but it's probably worth more than that the to many Russian visitors who make the trip to the museum. GL has been building the collection for 20 years now. GL says in the early 1990s, the icons were sitting around unwanted, abandoned by the Soviets and so people got nervous about having them in their homes. So GL is clear he didn't acquire the paintings illegally. But it's still easy to imagine someone objecting to these icons no longer being in Russia. But the curator of the museum sees it as a guardian and nothing more, and he says no one really �owns� the icons.

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