A conference in London has been hearing how contemporary arts and artifacts can be used to bring public national museums to life. Many have been around since the 18th century, with the British Museum widely acknowledged as the first. VoR's Hywel Davies reports.
Professor Mikhail Piotrovsky, The Director of Russia’s best known museum, the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg: “People in general hate contemporary art – in Russia we are in general are conservative but all over the world contemporary art is not considered something good together with normal art like the Old Masters”.
In June this year, the Hermitage will be welcoming a huge exhibition, Manifesta 10, with more than 50 contemporary artists taking over galleries, outdoor spaces and even staff buildings.
But how will the modern pictures, sculptures, video installations and performance art mix with the thousands of old masters in the museum, founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great as her personal art collection?
Among the exhibits are a car crashed in one of the museums main courtyards – another consists simply of the firing of an artillery piece.
So does the exhibition risk alienating the conservative Russian public that Professor Piotrosky talks of? He says it may – but that it’s essential to expose people to contemporary art next to more traditional art to educate them:
And it’s not just a Russian problem he says: “Recently in Paris was working with colleagues; they were talking about how terrible it was to exhibit Jeff Koons in Versaille. The same feeling in St Peterburg. A lot of people will be against the idea but I think, with discussion, that’s how you educate people.”
Professor Piotrosky was speaking at a conference organised by King's College London.
That’s aiming to answer the question whether Contemporary Art can mix with the Old Masters.
But for many of the speakers at the conference, the danger is not of those two clashing.
Rather it’s the fear that institutions who don’t look to the contemporary will fall behind and become ossified – a modern day cabinet of curiosities without relevance to the modern world.
Dr. Neil McGregor, Director of the British Museum – the very first public national museum - says his aim to use modern artefacts to reflect on the past – and use the past to illuminate the present.
One recent exhibition saw the work of the ceramicist Grayson Perry displayed next to German stoneware more than five centuries old: “What was very pleasing was that I can safely say that very few people had engaged with the magnificent Renaissance German Stonewearwhich belongs in the British Museum. You out a Grayson Perry beside it, they do. They discover this is really an astonishing tradition of European creativity we’ve neglected.”
That a view shared by Professor Piotrovsky.
For him he says the chance to have all manner of modern artists is actually an opportunity for the Hermitage to return to its roots.
Royal patrons, he says, like Catherine the Great or Peter the Great collected many works by artists of their day – so many of the old masters we know and love now were to them highly controversial contemporary art. Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/uk/news/2014_05_01/Can-Hermitage-handle-contemporary-art-8971/
News source: The Voice of Russia
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