The collection of the Museum is the only one in Russia, which represents all the aspects of the history of visual arts in Petrograd–Leningrad–St. Petersburg throughout the twentieth century and in the two decades of the twenty-first century. Besides history, the focus of the collection is on the present-day art. It demonstrates the various trends and styles that have contributed to St. Petersburg tradition and determined its cultural uniqueness. The collection can boast of a wide range of works, including paintings, drawings, sculpture, decorative and applied arts, collages, installations, etc.
The works by 380 artists are a vivid reflection of the creative processes that have taken place in St. Petersburg. Many of the painters and draftsmen belonged to the Artists’ Circle group famous in the 1920s–40s (Vyacheslav Pakulin, Lidia Timoshenko, Alexey Pochtenny, David Zagoskin, etc.), others (e.g. Nikolay Lapshin, Vladimir Grinberg, Victoria Belakovskaya, Viktor Proshkin and Vera Zenkovich) preferred to stay aloof from professional associations. Their works are the gem of the museum collection.
The productions of two renowned groups, The Eleven (Vitaly Tyulenev, Zaven Arshakuni, Victor Teterin, Valentina Rakhina, Konstantin Simun, etc.) and The Stairs (Nikolay Koshelkov, Anatoly Zaslavsky, Lybov Dobashina, Valdimir Dolgopolov, etc.), show artistic explorations that grew out of the so-called Thaw period that started after Stalin’s death (1953) and gave rise to a variety of trends of the later periods, e.g. the circle of Pavel Kondratyev and Vladimir Sterligov, Leningrad Underground, associations of the 1980s–90s, e.g. the Mitki, 10 Pushkinskaya Street, the Association of Experimental Visual Arts and many others. These trends and associations are amply represented in the Museum. Many of the 380 artists in the collection did not belong to any of these groups, e.g. Pelageya Shuriga, Vladimir Lebedev, Boris Yermolayev, Georgy and Oleg Tatarnikov, Levon Lazarev, Irina Yaroshevich, Timur Novikov and quite a few others. Nonetheless their contribution to the development of the Leningrad–St. Petersburg artistic tradition has been conspicuous.
The collection has been formed as a result of purchases, either financed from the Museum budget or with the support of St. Petersburg Committee for Culture, as well as donations of artists, institutions, galleries and collectors.
The collection is distributed among three depositories.
Depositories no. 1 and no. 2 (103 Griboyedov Canal) contain paintings and drawings.
Depository no. 3 (103 Griboyedov Canal) keep sculpture, objets d’art (collages, installations, etc.).