The Opening of the Hermitage • Amsterdam Exhibition Complex
On 24 February 2004 a branch of the State Hermitage called the ‘Hermitage • Amsterdam’ was formally opened in the city of Amsterdam. An exhibition of ‘Greek Gold’ coming from the State Hermitage was put on display in the first building of this exhibition complex.
Among the dignitaries present at the opening ceremony were Crown Prince of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander, Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Mikhail E. Shvydkoi, and Director of the State Hermitage Mikhail B. Piotrovsky.
“The Hermitage collaborates actively with a number of different countries, but in the case of the Netherlands this collaboration has a spiritual tinge of great sympathy remaining from the times of Peter the Great’s visit to Holland. Here we always sense that special feeling of the Dutch for Russia, particularly for St Petersburg, which gives to all forms of collaboration an especially emotional coloration,” said Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovsky in an interview with journalists of RIA 'Novosti' on the occasion of the opening of a branch of the museum in Amsterdam.
The launch of a branch of the State Hermitage in Amsterdam comes as the direct result of a plan for creating a ‘Hermitage on the Amstel’ put together jointly by Museum Director Mikhail B. Piotrovsky and Mr Ernst Veen, President of the Foundation Hermitage Friends in the Netherlands and Director of the Amsterdam museum De Nieuwe Kerk.
In June 2001 Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and His Royal Highness, the Prince of Orange were in St Petersburg on a state visit. During the course of their stay in Russia’s Northern Capital, the royal guests visited the State Hermitage. In the Queen’s presence an agreement on the opening of a permanent exhibition complex for the museum in Amsterdam to be called the ‘Hermitage on the Amstel’ was signed by Hermitage Director Mikhail B. Piotrovsky and Ernst Veen, President of the Foundation Hermitage Friends in the Netherlands.
The municipal authorities in the capital of the Netherlands adopted a resolution to transfer the architectural complex of Amstelhof, situated in the city center along the banks of the Amstel River, to the ‘Hermitage on the Amstel’ Foundation for the purpose of opening an exhibition center on the site. It is expected that the complex, which is now called the ‘Hermitage • Amsterdam’, will become a kind of ‘embassy’ of the museum in Western Europe.
The ‘Hermitage • Amsterdam’ complex consists of several buildings located around a garden. The main building, constructed in 1681 in the strict, classical style, has preserved its original appearance nearly intact. Just beyond the main structure, on the canal called the Nieuwe Herengracht, stands the Neerlandia building which was built at the end of the 19th century.
The plan for rebuilding the complex was developed by Hubert-Jan Henket, who converted the Neerlandia into a spacious and airy building with good natural daylight. Wim Crouwel, an outstanding interior designer, created a contemporary and elegant interior, which is quite the opposite of what the building was formerly. The building is equipped with the most modern security system and climatic controls.
As Ernst Veen explains: "We began with the establishment of the Dutch Foundation of Friends of the Hermitage. Over time the Dutch Friends of the Hermitage collected millions, which made it possible to carry out several remarkable projects: ‘A New Roof and New Lighting for Rembrandt’ (1998) and ‘A New Roof and New Lighting for the Dutch Masters in the Hermitage’ (2000). Now we are busy looking for funds to finance our next project, which includes reconstruction of the Hanging Garden, Peter Gallery and foundations of the Small Hermitage.
Following its restoration, the Peter Gallery will display about 600 paintings by Dutch Masters from the store rooms of the Hermitage.
“In February 2004 we will open the first building in the complex with a show dedicated to ‘Greek Gold’ from the State Hermitage. Next will come ‘Nicholas and Alexandra’ and then in 2005 an exhibition of Venetian painting. In order to accommodate all these exhibitions in an appropriate manner we have turned the Neerlandia into a small palace, making it a springboard for carrying out the entire project."