250th Anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum
by Cathy Locke
Next year the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia will celebrate its 250th anniversary. The State Hermitage Museum was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great for her personal art collection. The museum was first opened to the public in 1852, making it one of the oldest and most prestigious museums in the world. In 2014 the museum will celebrate 250 years of existence and its organizers have been busy planning for this monumental event. A new wing of the museum will be opening to the public in the General Staff Building directly across from the Winter Palace. This new wing will consist of five courtyards and 800 rooms all dedicated to the art from the 19th to 21st centuries. The opening of this behemoth new wing will make the Hermitage the largest museum in the world. The opening of the new wing will free up space for temporary exhibits in the Small Hermitage building. By 2014 the church inside of the Winter Palace will be restored and all of the museum's permanent displays in this area will have been renovated. Electronic catalogues of the museum’s collection and a new website are under way.
All of this renovation has been possible through substantial support from the Russian Federal Government and the creation of the Hermitage Endowment Fund. In January 2012 the Russian government introduced a tax rebate for personal donations to charitable endowments. The State Hermitage Museum through its Endowment Fund has been the first such organization in Russia to benefit from this new law. The rebate, which still does not exist in Britain for charities, is likely to make a significant difference to fundraising for the Hermitage museum. The Hermitage Endowment has become the biggest cultural endowment in Russia, thanks to a single donation from Vladimir Potanin.
The Manifesta Foundation has selected the State Hermitage Museum for their 2014 European Biennial of Contemporary Art called Manifesta 10. The Manifesta Foundation chose the Hermitage because of its intellectual and historical relationship with East and West Europe: which is a uniting principal central to the foundation. 2014 also marks a Jubilee year for the Manifesta Foundation as it marks their 20th anniversary. Manifesta was created in response to the new social, cultural and political reality that emerged in the aftermath of the Cold War. Manifesta 10 at the Hermitage will analyse 25 years of changing realities within this new global world order. What better place than Russia for such an historic artistic event. The newly renovated General Staff Building at the State Hermitage Museum, dedicated to modern and contemporary art, will be the main stage of Manifesta 10.