In tough times, new Hermitage Amsterdam offers gilded oasis
What economic crisis? Organizers of the new museum promise one of the most 'lavish' exhibitions ever to hit Europe.
(Page 2 of 2)
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But the relationship with Amsterdam's Nieuwe Kerk stood out. Veen has been its director since the Nieuwe Kerk opened in 1981. In the early 1990s, he began working with the Hermitage on a series of exhibitions of the museum's collections.
By the time Veen was invited to propose a new purpose for the Amstelhof, in the latter part of the past decade, the Nieuwe Kerk and the Hermitage had forged a relationship that made the next step seem natural.
"We know them like we know our own family," Mr. Matveev says.
Veen invited Mr. Piotrovsky to see the complex.
"We were standing in the courtyard, and I said, 'Mikhail, what do you think about the idea to realize a satellite museum of the Hermitage?' " recalls Veen.
Old becomes Nieuwe again
Architect Hans Van Heeswijk, whose firm led the conversion project, says the building's layout made it ideal for public use.
"There are long views throughout the building, with daylight coming in on all sides," Mr. Van Heeswijk says. "It looks much bigger on the inside than it does on the outside. It's very flexible, very solid in its materials."
All set for takeoff
Before Amsterdamers get their first look, the inaugural ceremony for Hermitage Amsterdam will be attended by members of the Dutch royal family and high-ranking Russian officials, including President Dmitry Medvedev.
Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen says the museum's opening underscores the relationship between the two countries.
"There is a close connection that dates back centuries. And I am convinced that the museum will provide a new incentive to cultural relations between Russia and Amsterdam," Mr. Cohen says.
The inaugural exhibition, titled "At the Russian Court: Palace and Protocol in the XIX Century," will feature more than 1,800 objects recreating the court life of 19th-century Russia. Organizers are promising "one of the most lavish [exhibitions] ever presented in Europe," according to a statement.
All of which does create a bit of a jarring impression: a museum of large proportions, opening with an opulent exhibit, in the midst of an economic crisis?
"I always say there was a little angel on my shoulder: Two years ago, I managed to get the five main sponsors for an agreement of five years, starting with 2009, with the opening," says Veen. "And that means until 2013, everything is fixed. And I do believe in 2013, there will be a new financial climate."
Veen emphasizes that Hermitage Amsterdam was able to keep sponsors on board by staying within the budget (about $55 million) and on schedule.
"Everybody by now is very enthusiastic."