The war in Ukraine forces the Hermitage Amsterdam to reinvent itself

Amsterdam. It is one of the cultural collateral victims of the invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s troops. The Hermitage Amsterdam opened in 2009 after borrowing, for a hefty fee, its name and collections from the famed St. Petersburg State Museum – a location modeled on Western museums. For fourteen years, he organized around thirty exhibitions, a third of which were related to the history of Russia.

But after the Russian invasion, the institution had no choice but to close its then exhibition, devoted to the Russian avant-garde, and to end its contract with the Hermitage Museum. from Saint Petersburg. Far from wanting to temporize, Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the Russian museum, had publicly taken the side of“special operation”. A difficult decision for the Hermitage Amsterdam, because this private place does not have collections, public subsidies or endowment funds. In order to stay open, he hastily designed temporary exhibitions with various loans of works.

Russia, a heavy dispute with the Netherlands

Its director, Annabelle Birnie, used this interim period to find a new model. From September 1, the place will be called the “H’Art Museum”, keeping only the first letter of its name from its close history. More substantially, the director announced that she had signed loan and exhibition agreements with three international institutions: the British Museum in London, the Center Pompidou in Paris and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC (United States). . Not without humor or provocation, the first exhibition resulting from a partnership with the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, scheduled for 2024, will be devoted to the painter of Russian origin Vassily Kandinsky (1866-1944).

The break between the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg and the Netherlands will further increase the dispute between the two countries. On June 9, the Dutch Supreme Court upheld previous court rulings that Scythian objects lent by four Crimean museums for an exhibition in Amsterdam in 2014 should be returned to Ukraine rather than Crimea, under control of Russia since its 2014 invasion. A few months earlier, in March, the International Criminal Court, a court independent of the Netherlands but based in The Hague, issued an arrest warrant against President Vladimir Putin “allegedly responsible for the war crime of illegal deportation of population (children) and illegal transfer of population (children) from occupied territories of Ukraine to the Russian Federation”.

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