Mikhail Piotrovsky
director of the Hermitage Museum,
about The Hermitage Days in Serbia

Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg — one of the world’s largest museums — tells about the projects that the Hermitage is running in Serbia.

Mikhail Piotrovsky
director of the Hermitage Museum,
about The Hermitage Days in Serbia



On 24−29 October, Belgrade will host the Hermitage Days in Serbia for the first time. What will it be like?

The Hermitage Days are more than just exhibitions that we would typically hold in other cities. It is an event to which we are bringing the whole of the Hermitage. The Hermitage is a distinguished cultural institution, a monument of universal importance, and a fulcrum of educational, archaeological and restoration efforts. This is what we will show during the Hermitage Days in Serbia. Sponsored by our partners — the Serbian Ministry of Culture and Russia’s Gazprom Neft — our extensive cultural programme will include exhibitions, lectures, museum workshops, and film screenings. I am also invited to give one of such lectures at the University of Belgrade. Our old friend and famous Russian singer Vasily Gerello will sing at the National Theatre in Belgrade. The same theatre will also stage the St. Petersburg Jacobson Ballet Company’s performances marking the centenary of the Serbian ballet, which was started with support of the Russian choreographers.

What will be so special about the Hermitage exhibitions in Serbia? Any surprises up your sleeve?

Between 24 October and 24 November, the National Museum of Serbia will host two of our expositions — the Invisible Art and the Tsar’s Porcelain. Given today’s challenges that essentially disable us from arranging insurance and safe shipment, bringing original exhibits to Serbia is a "mission impossible" for now. That is why we decided to showcase other aspects of our museum’s activity in Belgrade. For example, the Invisible Art project is an extraordinary inclusive exhibition produced by our restoration specialists. Inclusion is one of our key focuses at the Hermitage today. It brings a new experience to all audiences by giving them a chance to physically touch the exhibits. You know, we would all want to touch a sculpture or a painting, wouldn’t we? And the people in Belgrade will have this chance — we will let them touch the frescoes, carpets and tactile replicas of other Hermitage exhibits. Trust me, it is going to be a fascinating experience!

In Panjakent, Central Asia, our archaeologists dug up some strikingly beautiful frescoes of the Sogdian culture dating back to the early Middle Ages. We have restored these frescoes, but since the actual painting is badly damaged, their originals look rather faint even now. In addition to reconstructing the complete design to show the audience their details, the Hermitage specialists also found a way to create tactile reproductions of these frescoes. They also added some animated films to make the frescoes more accessible and comprehensible to the people. This is only a small portion of what we will be bringing to Serbia.

It’s the first and very important step in developing our projects in Serbia. The sheer scale of the Hermitage Days proves that our plans are truly ambitious.

The second exhibition, the Tsar’s Porcelain, is dedicated to the rich heritage that the Russian emperors left us, which still inspires artists and designers to this day. We will show exact replicas of tea sets owned by the Russian monarchs of the Romanov dynasty that were manufactured by the Imperial Porcelain Factory, and tell the audience what formal dinner parties and tea parties in the royal residences looked like.

Telling about the Russian Empire and its culture is a Hermitage tradition. And it fits in with the traditional interest the Serbs have for the Russian tsars.

Is this the reason why you picked Serbia for the Hermitage Days?

Today, Russian culture is going through rough times. This is why we are very careful about where we go and stage our exhibitions. And we feel we really need to be in the places that show true mutual interest in building cultural ties. Of course, Serbia tops this list. The people of Russia and Serbia have stood together for centuries, we have much in common, and our paths have crossed so many times throughout our history. I think our visit is more than just telling people about exhibits or museum activities. It is also a story of today’s culture in Russia — what has changed and what is new. After all, the Hermitage is a reflection of the Russian culture. Of Russia that everyone likes. Of Russia that we represent.

We and our Serbian colleagues have been doing an archaeological dig in Vojvodina region for several years now, which is why we will have a Russia-Serbia Archaeological Research Conference as part of the Hermitage Days to discuss the progress of our joint efforts. Archaeology is not the most conspicuous, but very important work, because the excavations carried out by experts from the Hermitage and the Museum of Vojvodina look back to the days when the Slavs emerged and expanded. The roots of the Slavic history make an incredibly interesting story! Our expedition has not found any precious objects, however, but there are certain historical items that the museum can turn into real treasures. All things become precious when they are put on display in a museum, accompanied by a detailed narrative about their history.

In fact, Serbia is the first country in Southeast Europe where the Hermitage is launching a full-blown development programme. The Hermitage Days are just the first step we are taking to stay in this region for a long time to come. To this end, we are seeing huge support from both the Serbian Ministry of Culture and our partner, Gazprom Neft, which has long been working in this country. It’s the first and very important step in developing our projects in Serbia. The sheer scale of the Hermitage Days proves that our plans are truly ambitious.