Report of the State Hermitage - 2005
In December 2006, the Report of the State Hermitage for 2005 was published (Slavia Publishing House). The report opens with an article by museum director Mikhail Piotrovsky entitled "The Year of Kazan":
The major event of 2005 was the opening of the Hermitage - Kazan Exhibition Centre, which is a form of collaboration between the Kazan Kremlin Museum-Preserve and the State Hermitage. It is located in the Junker building near the Presidential Palace, between the Kul-Sharif Mosque and the Cathedral of the Annunciation. The Centre was opened during the days celebrating the 1000th anniversary of the founding of Kazan, and it presented an exhibition devoted to the culture of the Golden Horde. This was the first exhibition on such a scale and with such a high degree of scholarly preparation. Many museums around Russia took part in it. It was accompanied by a scholarly conference, a series of lectures and concerts. The Golden Horde is one of the main subjects of Russian history and it also has been one of the basic themes of research and archeological activity of the Hermitage over the course of decades if not centuries. We have something to tell one another. The Centre in Kazan is part of the Greater Hermitage concept - programme which includes (alongside restoration of traditional halls, the creation of new galleries and branches, storerooms which are open to the public, a great many exhibitions in various points around the world and in the internet) the creation of long-term centres for showing off our collections, our understanding of the history of the culture of humanity and our style of educational work. There are such centres in London, Las Vegas and Amsterdam. One more is being prepared in Ferrara. The main intent of this concept is to create conditions for ensuring full access to our collections.
This year we were pleased to open renovated halls displaying the art of France, the gallery of the history of Ancient painting and the Jupiter Hall. At present there are not many places remaining in the museum which require urgent repairs. Our restoration program is beginning to shift towards normal repairs rather than the crisis work regime that was the case just a few years ago.
A great deal of research and diplomatic effort culminated in two exhibitions dealing with historical issues. The huge exhibition on Alexander I, it seems to me, helped to direct public attention at the unjustified blurred image of the Victor over Napoleon, and, the main thing, to force many people to seriously ponder our country's history in all its complexities. The exhibition about another controversial figure, Marshal Mannerheim, is in the same category. We tried to speak about him as a Russian officer in the Guards and as a Russian investigator of Central Asia and China. It was precisely this part of his biography that did much to determine the character of his much celebrated later career as a hero of Finland.
The museum's mission to present new art to the Hermitage public was implemented in exhibitions of a variety of artists including Max Ernst and Henri Brazilier. The exhibition of Italian art from the first half of the 20th Century was a real discovery. We showed masterpieces by Italian Futurists that are not represented in our museums although they are consonant with our culture. Our frequent or "gourmet" visitors were the target audience for a showing of one great painting by Rembrandt, the Pallas Athena, which once hung on the walls of the Hermitage. We were all amazed at how much more beautiful it is in life than even the best reproductions suggest. The Hermitage permits itself to make experiments within this strict academic context. The exhibition of sketches for wine bottle labels on Mouton Rothschild by the best artists of the 20th Century showed how art and business can successfully inspire one another.
Our usual attempts to bring new dimensions to museum exhibitions, for example, music, gave rise to a unique exhibition. Together with Italian perfume designers we reconstructed first one by one and then in a synthesized manner the aromas of fruits and flowers in Caravaggio's Lute Player. The fruits and flowers depicted have lost their freshness and, in the painting, convey a serious philosophical and symbolic message. The synthesized aroma, which was unexpected for many, strengthened the image of a sinful and slightly affected decomposition of beauty which was typical of this and many other pictures of the great artist.
Practically everything I have mentioned, as well as much else was done and created in close collaboration with our friends and partners in Russia and around the whole world. This is also a permanent and valued aspect of the activities of the Hermitage, a museum open to the whole world. We highly esteem the friendship and good will that surround us.