Since 2009, the famous Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg in Russia has had an offshoot in Amsterdam. They hold exhibitions curated from the incredible collection held in St Petersburg. For those unlikely to travel to Russia, it’s a great opportunity to see art from the huge collections of western and other art exhibited there.
This year, the Hermitage Amsterdam has two exhibitions. Until mid-September there is Splendor and Glory: Art of the Russian Orthodox Church. Even if you’re not particularly religious, these icons and artifacts are some of the most breathtaking objects from history – there’s a lot of gold involved in Russian religious art.
The icons in particular are worth seeing – incredibly beautiful, they are considered windows into heaven or eternity. In Orthodox Churches icons are far more than just decorative pieces and even the way they are made contains an intense spiritual commitment from the artists. This is complemented by a photography exhibition about the (often older) women who work as gallery guards in the Russian galleries.
They sit in the same room year after year as tourists wander past, rarely even noticing them; they look rather harmless but I don’t think I’d try stealing a painting under their noses. From mid-September on, the Hermitage will hold an exhibition of Flemish artists from history: Rubens, van Dyck and Jordaens.
The gallery also has a special section called the Hermitage for Children where school classes go to get their hands dirty and actually make art. Then they can head into the exhibitions for further inspiration. There’s also a large study area where you can see the collection of the St Petersburg Hermitage and other Russian museums, plus see previous Hermitage Amsterdam exhibitions via touch screens and books.
Given that Russia holds some of the most significant collections of Western and other art, it’s a wonderful resource.