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Co-operation With the State Hermitage Museum

The cooperation between Interros and the State Hermitage may be said to have started on 5 December 1997 when ONEXIM BANK, represented by Vladimir Potanin, and the State Hermitage, represented by Mikhail Piotrovsky, concluded an agreement on joining efforts to preserve Russia's cultural heritage. It was at this time that the partners began implementing the project entitled Pages of the Hermitage History.

In the autumn of 1998, the Interros holding company took over the obligations of ONEXIM Bank with respect to the Hermitage and started to finance the Pages of the Hermitage History project. Researchers from the State Hermitage Museum developed a computerized version of Pages of the Hermitage History for the internet. The first book in a series called Records of Meetings of the Hermitage Council. 1918-1919 was prepared for publication.

The Great Hermitage project marked a new stage in the co-operation between the Interros group and the State Hermitage. It deals with reorganization of the central historical part of St Petersburg. The Museum faces the task of creating a cultural center around the Palace Square which will open up new exhibition space on a unique scale including entertainment and commercial attractions for the citizens and guests of St Petersburg. This will enable the State Hermitage to become a truly 21st century museum. Interros financed the creation of the Operational Design bureau in the General Staff building empowered to choose a contractor or consortium of contractors who will be responsible for the Great Hermitage project.

Another step in the implementation of the Great Hermitage project was the exhibition entitled The Realms of the Eagle, which opened in December 1999 in the General Staff building thanks to financial support from Ms. Jayne Wrightsman (USA) and Interros president Vladimir Potanin. The items of applied art in the Empire style which were shown in this exhibition were well suited to the interiors of the building dating from the 1820's and designed by the famous architect Carlo Rossi. At the beginning of the 19th century this part of the building was occupied by the apartments of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Count Nesselrode. Fortunately the decor of the apartments was hardly altered over time. Many objects dating from the era of Alexander I and Napoleon I were taken from the Hermitage's storerooms and were exhibited for the first time in the historical interiors.

Within the scope of the Great Hermitage project, in the spring of 2000 restoration work was started on the Chariot of Glory, one of the biggest old monuments in St Petersburg. The Hermitage's restoration of this sculptural composition within the General Staff ensemble has been jointly financed by the state and by Interros.

The Chariot of Glory atop the General Staff building (1819-1829, architect Carlo Rossi) is one of the best known symbols of St Petersburg. The monument was commissioned by Nicholas I and was designed by the sculptors Vasily Demut-Malinovsky and Stepan Pimenov in 1828 to commemorate Russia's victory in the 1812-1814 war with Napoleonic France. In the course of the 170 years since its creation, the Chariot of Glory had to be restored four times due partly to original faults in the construction. The last restoration took place in1906. For the following 94 years, the Chariot of Glory was never repaired apart from repainting in 1945 and it became quite dilapidated, as an expert examination confirmed. The restoration was completed within three years, in time for the 300th anniversary of the city.

In October 2001 a new exhibition and museum complex called the Hermitage - Guggenheim opened in Las Vegas (USA) with support from Interros. At the first joint exhibition arranged there by the Hermitage and the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation and called Masterpieces and Master Collectors more 40 works by Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists were displayed; half came from the Guggenheim collections, half were chosen from the Hermitage collections.

In January 2002 Vladimir Potanin became a member of the Board of Trustees of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, where he represents the interests of the State Hermitage. The collaboration between two of the largest museums of the world and Interros continued in June 2002 with the establishment of a Hermitage - Guggenheim charitable foundation, with the president of Interros as the elected chairman of the board of directors. The foundation was created in order to implement joint projects in the field of art and educational programs. Its first activity was to begin developing a technical and economic plan and substantiation for reconstructing the General Staff complex, which is a key element in the Great Hermitage project.
In May 2002 Vladimir Potanin donated funds to the RF Ministry of Culture to purchase Kazimir Malevich's painting Black Square. This work by the great master was turned over to the Museum Holdings of the Russian Federation and was assigned to the State Hermitage with rights to operational management. The purchase of Black Square was the largest private contribution to the state since the time of the October Revolution.

To honor the 300th anniversary of the founding of the city of St Petersburg, an exhibition was opened in Paris in the spring of 2003 entitled Paris - St Petersburg. 1800 - 1830. When Russia Spoke French. Works of French and Russian art dating from the first third of the 19th century and coming mostly from the State Hermitage were exhibited in Les Invalides from May to August. In the autumn the exhibition moved to St Petersburg, where it was shown in the State Hermitage.



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