On June 19 Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and President Dimitri Medevev of Russia are scheduled to preside over the opening ceremonies for the ambitiously expanded Hermitage Amsterdam. The museum, housed in the Amstelhof, built between 1681 and 1683 as a charitable home for the elderly, will reopen to the public on June 20. A satellite of the Russian State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Hermitage Amsterdam is independently managed by the Stichting Hermitage aan de Amstel, and, under an agreement with the Russian government, presents exhibitions featuring works from the flagship institution's permanent collection. Architect Hans van Heeswijk, interior and exhibition designers Merkx and Girod, and landscape architect Michael van Gessel have sensitively transformed the Amstelhof and its grounds into a state-of-the-art exhibition facility.
The reopened museum's inaugural exhibition, At the Russian Court, includes more than eighteen hundred objects: paintings, porcelain, jewelry, costumes, and furniture, including the Romanov throne and the last czarina's grand piano. With installations inspired by the Nicholas Hall and Saint George's Hall of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, the show examines nineteenth-century Russian state ceremony in one of the museum's exhibition wings and czarist entertaining-dinners, balls, and parties-in the other.
Two permanent displays explore the museum's inception. One, Russia and the Hermitage: Encounters, pays tribute to the long history of Russian-Dutch cultural exchange, from the late seventeenth-century friendship between Peter the Great and the Amsterdam diplomat and burgomaster Nicolaes Witsen to the collaboration, begun in 1991, that resulted in the creation of Hermitage Amsterdam. The other display, in three rooms that include the ancient kitchens, preserves traces of the building's 350 years of care for the elderly.
At the Russian Court · Hermitage Amsterdam · June 20 to January 31, 2010 · www.hermitage.nl