Do not miss your chance to see Pirosmani’s painting, back in Georgia after a century

"Arsenal Hill at Night" will be displayed at the National Gallery in Tbilisi. Photo by the Ministry of Culture of Georgia., 21 Jul 2016 - 15:11, Tbilisi,Georgia

A famous painting by late Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani has been granted as a gift to Georgia 96 years after it was last displayed to the public in Tbilisi.


Arsenal Hill at Night was purchased by Georgia’s former  Prime Minister, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili at Christie's last month.

Ivanishvili had announced the piece he acquired at the auction for () would be returned to Georgia. The painting was then handed over to the largest Pirosmani collection at the Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts, part of the Georgian National Museum network.

Starting from today, the masterpiece will be first displayed for public viewing at the Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery along with the other Pirosmani paintings.  Admission to the exhibition is free of charge.

The artwork is now part of the Contemporary Georgian Arts Fund of the Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts, where the biggest collection of Pirosmani artworks is presented. Photo by Georgian National Museum

The National Gallery was the host to the last public display of the piece in 1919.

The most expensive of Pirosmani’s creations, Arsenal Hill at Night had been in possession of various owners over decades and sold at Sotheby’s and MacDougall’s auctions in 2007 and 2010 respectively.

The painting was created using oil paints on black oilcloth. Photo by the Ministry of Culture of Georgia.

Believed to have been created roughly in 1907-08, the oil painting is noted for its "expressive colouring” by the Christie’s. Presented in Tbilisi in 1919, notes for the exhibition of the piece referred to Pirosmani's view on it being his best work, among his other paintings at the event. Arsenal Hill at Night was probably commissioned by a Tbilisi tavern owner. Lost in the turmoil of World War I, the piece was discovered in 1920 and found itself in various private collections - including being presented to French communist poet Louis Aragon on his birthday by Soviet visitors - before it was auctioned a number of times in the last decade. 

Pirosmani worked uniquely within the Primitivist style but was mostly unrecognized during his lifetime. Living in poverty he mostly created his works for taverns and small shops, often in exchange for lunch or drinks instead of money. Most of Pirosmani’s numerous paintings did not survive the negligence of owners and unsuitable conditions for artistic pieces that they were stored in.