The Hermitage Amsterdam, which broke ties in March with the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has rebranded to exhibit Dutch art under a new series titled Dutch Heritage Amsterdam.
“After the rupture of the museum with Russia and the premature closing of the current exhibition, an exceptional situation arose for us,” the venue, a privately funded satellite of the Russian museum located on the banks of the Amstel river, said in a statement on its Facebook page. “Thanks to our fellow Dutch museums, we can present a new, five-part series of exhibitions under the name: Dutch Heritage Amsterdam.”
The first exhibition opened on Friday, featuring Johannes Vermeer's The Milkmaid (around 1660) from the Rijksmuseum collection (until 15 May). The series of shows promises to include "Dutch favourites".
“Bon voyage!,” said the Rijksmuseum in a Facebook post on Thursday. “Starting tomorrow The Milkmaid will be on show in the exhibition Dutch Heritage Amsterdam. Pay her a visit, she is only a mile away!”
Hermitage Amsterdam, which had struggled with funding in 2021, said in a statement in early March, shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ordered by President Vladimir Putin on 24 February, that it could no longer remain neutral: “For a long time the Hermitage Amsterdam has distanced itself from political developments in Putin’s Russia. Russia’s recent attack on Ukraine makes keeping this distance no longer tenable. War destroys everything.”
An exhibition of Russian avant-garde art that had opened in January and was scheduled to run for a year was sent back to St Petersburg after ties were severed.
Russia and the Netherlands have historically close ties due to Peter the Great’s visit there as a young ruler. Putin and Queen Beatrix opened an exhibition about Peter the Great at the Hermitage Amsterdam in 2013. But relations have been tense since 2014 after Malaysian Airlines flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over pro-Russian, separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine.
The Hermitage Amsterdam Facebook page now points users to their new account. Some Dutch commentators on the social media site called out the West and the Netherlands for hypocrisy. Others expressed regret that art was caught in the middle. “Art is supposed to bring people together instead of dividing them,” wrote one, echoing comments that Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the State Hermitage Museum, has made. Another said: “Great that the museum is opening again. Still I hope that in the future the relationship with St Petersburg will be restored and we can enjoy fantastic Russian art in peace.”