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Culture news
Museum to Replace House of Friendship
01.27.2006 14:29

shuvalovsky_palace City Hall signed a multi-million dollar deal with billionaire Viktor Vekselberg’s Link of Time foundation last week, granting the organization a lease on the 19th century Shuvalovsky Palace on the Fontanka embankment.

The palace is currently home to the Center for International Cooperation, also known as the House of Friendship.

By Galina Stolyarova

As part of the deal, the foundation, which plans to open a new museum of private collections at the palace, has undertaken to invest $10 million in a comprehensive renovation of the building.

The foundation will also provide a further $1.5 million for repairs to the new headquarters of the House of Friendship, said Natalya Gordeyeva, deputy head of City Hall’s Property Committee at a news conference at the Rosbalt news agency last Friday.

The new premises have yet to be selected, but Gordeyeva said they will be centrally located.

The deal provides Link of Time with a 49-year lease on the palace, the longest term allowed by the Russian government for buildings of historical significance.

The House of Friendship will not be leaving immediately. According to the terms of the agreement, the organization should move by Oct. 1 of this year, while renovations to the Shuvalovsky Palace are due to be completed in January 2009.

“The main reason why we were given the right to rent the Shuvalovsky Palace is the building’s depressing, crumbling condition,” Andrei Shtorkh, a spokesman for Link of Time said in a telephone interview last Monday. “The funds allocated by both local and federal government were not enough to cope with all its needs.”

Shtorkh said the foundation is planning to create another museum of private collections in Moscow, but hasn’t yet been able to find a suitable location in the Russian capital.

In 2005, Russian energy tycoon Vekselberg acquired the largest existing collection of Imperial Easter eggs created by Carl Faberge, comprising over 200 items and worth over $100 million.

As the Center for International Cooperation, the Shuvalovsky Palace served as a host venue for dozens of international events, including arts festivals.

Natalya Yeliseyeva, chairwoman of the St. Petersburg Association for International Cooperation, said the Shuvalovsky, with its sumptuous interiors and warm atmosphere, helped to create a positive image for the city, and that this could be lost as a result of its relocation.

“The House of Friendship has earned a very good international reputation,” Yeliseyeva said last Friday at the Rosbalt agency. “The move will be a mess, and the city is going to lose a respected venue.”

The association and the international humanitarian organizations it works in partnership with have been able to rent the Shuvalovsky at prices below the market rate for international cultural and charitable events.

“The House of Friendship is one of the city’s symbols, just like the Yeliseyevsky Food Halls and the old bakeries,” said Vera Brovkina, chairman of the St. Petersburg Council for Peace and Harmony charity organization. “Our partners were shocked to hear that it will be relocating.”

The palace is known among local and foreign musicians as a reasonably priced venue with excellent acoustics.

Swedish conductor Kristofer Wahlander, the founder of the St. Petersburg Festival Orchestra and artistic director of the Nordic Music Festival, praised the acoustics of the Shuvalovsky’s concert hall.

“The acoustics are simply marvelous there, beautifully suited to chamber performances as well as concerts by orchestras like ours, with 70 members,” Wahlander said in a telephone interview. “I hope that it will be possible to continue the tradition of hosting concerts there under Vekselberg’s rule.”

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