Over the last ten days, the presence of the State Hermitage in the museum world has significantly decreased. The first blow to the St. Petersburg Museum was its almost 20-year-old “cousin” “Hermitage-Amsterdam”, who refused to cooperate with the main institution. He was followed by the British Hermitage Foundation, which supports the museum. The Russian Museum responded with a very restrained and correct statement, and then withdrew from Italy works published for temporary exhibitions. I tried to understand the attempts of the most European of all Russian museums to stay in the civilized world Kira Dolinina.
It was clear two weeks ago that Russian museum grandees will not be able to stay away from the exciting process of “abolition of culture” unfolding against the background of events in Ukraine. They are not used to it – any legal or military international operations directly affect the exhibition exchange. Works of art, like private individuals, can be arrested in their places of temporary residence until disputes are resolved in courts of different instances. Specifically, the Hermitage is not used to it either: things from Schukin’s collection were detained because of the collector’s grandson’s lawsuit, and all ties with US museums were cut off due to disputes over Schneerson’s library. And two years of pandemics in general have reduced the exhibition activity of all museums in the world to a minimum.
However, new realities have reached this minimum. And the first blow was dealt by the oldest western branch of the St. Petersburg Museum, born, so to speak, from its edge – the exhibition hall “Hermitage-Amsterdam” in the Netherlands. On March 3, a Dutch museum run by a private fund and exclusively by local specialists decided to slow down direct contacts with Russia and stop the exhibition, which had triumphantly opened a month earlier. Kommersant wrote about the Russian Avant-Garde exhibition. Revolution in Art ”on February 4, and during the first weeks of the exhibition in Amsterdam it became clear that it is in great demand by Dutch audiences. Now agitfarfor and the accompanying paintings of the Russian avant-garde go home, and the Hermitage-Amsterdam, a beautiful complex of buildings on the Amstel River in the heart of the city, is almost empty, because a good restaurant and exhibition of local special artists fill it with visitors and content unable to.
The response of Russian colleagues to the Dutch démarche was not without diplomatic ballet dance: in art “”. There could be no other – the Dutch government hastily closed many joint cultural initiatives with Russia: in the first week it was announced that the exhibition “Rembrandt. Jewish View ”at the Jewish Museum and Center for Tolerance in Moscow, which Muscovites worked on in close cooperation with Dutch counterparts, announced a week ago that the much-established Dutch Institute in St. Petersburg had been suspended. And this is only in the museum world.
The next relationship was to be severed by an institution whose purpose was to help the Hermitage. A statement from the British Hermitage Foundation said: “The Foundation is a British-registered charity set up in 2003 to help the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg raise funds and provide other support. In the current situation, there will be no further transfers from the UK to Russia. ” These are not the biggest sponsors of the museum, but long-standing and seemingly faithful. However, not everything is smooth with the loyalty of Russian institutions themselves. In 2000, the Hermitage Halls were opened at the Courtois Institute in London. They were opened by the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles. At the same time, the Russian-British Hermitage Development Trust was formed, headed by Lord Rothschild. It also includes the main sponsors of the project – the head of Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the director of the European branch of the investment bank “Morgan, Stanley, Dean and Witter” Sir David Walker. None of the readers will be surprised if I tell you that for purely political and opportunistic reasons, three years later a sign with the word “Yukos” disappeared from the wall at the entrance to these halls. The exhibition initiative lasted another four years and in 2007 quietly died out.
The third act of today’s museum drama has the opposite vector: Russia is recalling works of art published at exhibitions. Not only the Hermitage will be involved here, but the Hermitage is certainly one of the main, if not the main exporter of art content in museums around the world. The first to receive inquiries was Palazzo Reale in Milan, who was told that the St. Petersburg Museum was asking for the return of two paintings from its collection, donated to the exhibition “Titian and the Female Images of 16th Century Venice.” The official comment of the Hermitage Directorate from March 10 reads: “The State Hermitage informs that in accordance with the agreements reached and the existing exhibition agreements, the exhibits issued for exhibitions in different countries are gradually returning to the museum. Details of the movements of the exhibits are never commented on or disclosed for their safety. ” Titian’s exhibition, of course, will lose the brilliant Hermitage “Portrait of a Young Woman”, but it will do well without him. But the managers of another Milan exhibition, the Gallerie d’Italia (Gallerie of Italy, a museum of Intesa Sanpaolo with branches in Milan, Vicenza and Naples), said they had received a request to return 23 works out of almost 200 from the current Grand Tour . The Dream of Italy from Venice to Pompeii “, provided by four Russian museums. This is already breaking the exposure. But the biggest touring exhibition project to date – the Morozov exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris – is still committed to completion by the end of the announced deadline: April 3.
The tendency of both sides of the current conflict to strike at cultural and scientific ties is destructive and inhumane. At least because science and art speak the same language and there are no boundaries for these languages in the civilized world.
In this situation, lifting their pants, they run after the Komsomol on both sides of the falling curtain. Governments are demanding that culture be under control. Culture is often easy to do. Someone, like the director of the Hermitage Mikhail Piotrovsky, is trying to minimize the blows: on the site His words of common sense appeared in the Washington Foundation of Friends of the Hermitage: “The world has gone mad, and it will never be the same again. What is happening right now is incomprehensible, it should never happen… But we must remain calm in this madness, because our mission to protect cultural bridges between nations has become more important than ever. We must maintain this fragile bond between people, help people hear each other and return to dialogue, not violence. Our coordinated efforts will be needed to help the culture survive the turbulent times. And here our personal relationships are important. Friendship is tested in difficult times. ” Roughly the same thing is now being written by fellow scientists on both sides of the border. We do not hear this note in the official news.