Hermitage Revealed: 250 Years in the Making
Written and directed by Margy Kinmonth
Nov 16, 19 – Cineplex’ Front Row Centre Gallery series – Check local listings across Canada
The State Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world. It was founded in 1764 by Russian ruler Catherine the Great founded it in 1764 as her private collection. It opened to the public in 1852. The museum owns 3 million artefacts but most are in storage. The museum is housed in six buildings but even that space isn’t sufficient to show it all off, if you can imagine. Now in its 250th year, its vast treasures are on display like never before in this stunning documentary.
Filmmaker Margy Kinmonth presents a guided tour through the museum and its private spaces to see as close as any member of the public has seen the metals, paintings, marbles, animal and jewel treasures. The buildings, formerly royal palaces that last were home to the doomed Romanoff’s, are a fantasy of gilt, marble, art glass and sunshine. An outrageously decadent spot if you were poor in 1900 – you wouldn’t have seen inside, but you might have heard. Today, the highest level of historic architecture and art encased in state amber for the entire world to enjoy.
It survived a devastating fire, threats of Nazi looting – Russian soldiers squirreled the treasures away in caves – internal theft and other catastrophes. Not only does it highlight and pay tribute to Russian culture and history, it also offers vast artworks from around the world. The Hermitage regularly shares its treasures in limited international touring exhibits.
It’s a strong statement about the place of arts in human life. It is many things, transforming, enlivening, humanising and can be a powerful platform for politics, social interaction, love of nature, historical documentation. It is absolutely central to the experience of being alive. Look around you and see what exists because of an artistic impulse, ours or others’. One curator – Hermitage has more curators than any other museum in the world – says art must be valued over property and I tend to agree.
The artefacts speak to us about life thousands of years ago as well as our own times. They show us what was important to people or required expression and that those same things are just as strong today. The film itself is a transformative experience and it is so well made it will stay with viewers for a long time.