View from the Hermitage. Is it Another Blank
The reason for today's conversation is the stir around the story of a reception, or, as they like to say, of a party (a word, which is also used in Russian without translation) dedicated to the release of one of the magazines on board of the Aurora. In my opinion, it is public response caused by the event that is important.
I have a right to discuss such things because the Hermitage does not permit to conduct otherís celebrations in its territory. Only events that we organize ourselves and that are connected with the activities of the museum take place here. At the same time we do not believe that others should do the same. Many domestic and foreign museums lease space and that has never drawn any particular response. Now it has drawn it: most likely this is a social response to wealth that is being displayed. In connection with the risen scandal there are several matters of principal that are worth discussing. In the first place, what is a museum and which events are accepted within its walls.
The response to the episode with the Aurora is a consequence that people started to perceive the ship as some symbol. Indignation can be explained. On the analogy, the Hermitage is a symbol of statehood that is why we do not allow anyone to lease spaces here and to organize celebrations. To what extent is the Aurora a symbol? For most people it is a museum and not a symbol of the revolution, in any case not to the extent as the Smolny. And if the Aurora is not a symbol, then we should think what we may do there. Recently, evenings and receptions have been taking place on board of the Aurora. I think there is nothing terrible in this. Museum has a right to determine its strategy of behaviour. Later we may judge on the strength of all the events whether it behaved correctly or not.
The Hermitage, the Tretyakov Gallery, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and other museums organize various events, for example, music festivals. The question may arise whether music and crowds of people that come to listen to it are appropriate there. The question may arise whether it is appropriate to include jazz in the Hermitage music festivals. Each museum should act on the basis of its interests and possibilities and not on the principle that every one is doing this. Each has its own situation.
Recently a new Hermitage centre was opened in Amsterdam. For the whole week receptions for various people were taking place there. The other day there was a reception for seven hundred Holland architects, before that there was the reception for those people who built the centre, for those who lived and worked in that building, for representatives of museum world of the Netherlands, for politicians... Lectures were given to them, excursions were organized. This was the opening of the exhibition with reception.
An important detail is to what extent people who attend receptions are reminded of where they are. I donít know how it was on board of the Aurora, but when it takes place in the Hermitage and many other museums, each reception is accompanied by an excursion. When people get to a museum they know what is there. It is useful and at the same time it puts visitors back in place.
Museum is not a palace of culture; it has its own routine. It is time
to think about differences of a museum,
Thousands of people visited our centre in Amsterdam; correct procedure of receptions had been found there - wine and appetizers were served in the restaurant and in specially allocated places. Number of visitors in each hall was regulated. Night opening is a rare event in the life of museums. The centre in Amsterdam was working for 31 hours after its opening, day and night. It was great - the city mayor gave a lecture, the musicians were playing... It is important that is was not only the night of open doors but it was also the event that shall stay in everyoneís memory. We experienced something like that during 300th birthday of St Petersburg. Tens of thousands of people celebrated the anniversary of the city by spending the night in the Hermitage.
Such events are a form of use of the museum in a way that is more extensive than its functions. It is acceptable, it is just important to determine how to combine elements of entertainment with the way the museum positions itself. We are going too far in one or another direction. A different matter is that we accumulate experience and try to observe democracy - organize night openings, receptions, concerts... All this is intended for those people for whom the museum is interesting.
Here it is appropriate to remind that democracy of the Hermitage declares itself in its social programme. I often talk about this because most people forget - half of visitors enter the Hermitage for free, these are children, students and pensioners. One day each month the entrance if free for everyone. At the same time entrance ticket price is ridiculous and indecent: 100 roubles for a Russian visitor.
Nobody remembers that it is not a discount since nobody is compensating for our costs. But this social programme has its own economy because someone has to reimburse the expenses. It is partially done by the museum but due to this we have to cut down expenses on restoration works. Moreover, someone who is able to pay more has to pay for those who can not afford to buy entrance ticket at full price - 350 roubles. That is why there should be a system of events and activities that are not cheap - museum visits outside regular hours, special exhibitions... All this compensates for social program costs.
A good step in connection to visitors is often interpreted as duty or obligation. People who have an opportunity to get to the Hermitage for a hundred roubles are irritated that they have to stand in a queue. I receive piles of complaints from those who do not want to stand in queues to the Hermitage, who are not happy with how ticket windows operate... Through the newspaper I would like to give my apologies to those who suffer from inconveniences. People demands are just, but there are queues to all large museums of the world. In order to get to the Uffizi Gallery people stand in queues for more than a day. We are not able to let all the flow of visitors into the museum. Even if we create more ticket windows this would not cancel the queue. The queue is a regulator of capacity. There are rules on how many people can be in the museum simultaneously. The museum hosts visitors but it must preserve the exhibits. With due respect to people there are paintings the rights of which are more important than comfort of visitors. But not all people understand that. One visitor filed a lawsuit against the Hermitage because he was not allowed to enter the museum in overclothes.
We have a lot of new projects. We are preparing additional tickets windows, we are working on regulating visitors' flows. We are taking into consideration wishes and offenses of the visitors. It will be better, but the queues will remain. Ever since yesterday people have gotten an opportunity to come to the Hermitage in the evening, purchase entrance ticket for three hundred roubles and see two wonderful temporary exhibitions - The Perfect Victory. Dedication to the 300th Anniversary of the Battle of Poltava and The Beautiful has come. We do not prolong opening hours of the museum, it is too expensive.
I shall repeat that we are never going to organize receptions and parties on order, but the Hermitage hosts guests with whom it has joint projects. So we organize regular receptions for the Friends of the Hermitage. They are invited for special programmes where they can see what regular visitors do not see, they are the first to see new exhibitions. In such cases there are moderate receptions with a glass of wine in places where it is allowed. We organize evenings when we open unusual exhibitions and programmes.
Once a year international charity gala reception is organized in the Winter Palace. It has a fixed goal - to collect means for reconstruction of the Eastern Wing of the General Staff building. For the purpose we have money from the World Bank and from the state. It is not enough and we are using a financial structure, which involves both state and private partnership.
How does the reception take place? People from all over the world come to the Hermitage. They buy tickets for participation in this event. It is a charitable contribution for the development of the museum. There are corporations that pay for the reception organization. Each time a special programme is developed for such evening. This year its topic was sculpture and antique art. The reception took place in the antique rooms. Dinner was served in an empty room and was only a small part of the programme. Artists from the Mariinsky Theatre and other St Petersburg theatres performed in the antique rooms before dinner. Choir and ballet were apprehended amazingly among the antique sculptures. Right here a modern sculpture was displayed just for one night. A sculpture by Louise Bourgeuois, one of the most famous modern sculptors of the world, that she presented to the Hermitage after her exhibition, was in one of the rooms. One could see the exhibition of Wim Delvoye at the Saltykov entrance. Works of the Italian artists presented to the museum were demonstrated in the foyer of the Hermitage Theatre. Ballet stars were dancing entrancingly on the stage of the Hermitage Theatre.
Guests of the reception saw and appreciated all this. Famous Russian
and foreign architects, representatives of the largest Moscow and Western
galleries were among the guests. They are taking part in the
I think the problem with the party on board of the Aurora is that the event was of provocative character. When details of the party, true or imaginary became available to the press the public got a feeling of incorrectness of what had been going on there.
The border between appropriate and inappropriate should be observed. When entertaining people should not forget about museum environment. Delicate matters should be resolved in a delicate manner. All hinges on one simple thing that is called good taste.