Charles Saatchi has agreed to create a “Saatchi Room” in the Hermitage, in St Petersburg. The Art Newspaper can reveal that the London collector is to provide a changing selection of contemporary art. Mr Saatchi admits that “I am a Hermitage groupie—one of the museum’s greatest admirers.”
The dedicated Saatchi room will be in the General Staff Building, former government offices in Palace Square which are being restored to provide a home for the Hermitage’s collection of 19th to 21st century art. A Saatchi spokesperson confirmed that the collector is “happy to go along with the idea of lending a rotating selection of works”.
This move follows the opening of “USA Today”, an exhibition which Mr Saatchi has sent to Russia, following its display at London’s Royal Academy in autumn 2006. “USA Today”, with 58 works, opened in St Petersburg on 24 October, co-sponsored by Coca-Cola and UBS. Running until 13 January, it is in recently renovated rooms on the second and third floors of the General Staff Building. Mr Saatchi has worked on the presentation with Dimitri Ozerkov, the newly appointed Hermitage curator of contemporary art.
The opening of “USA Today” also marks the launch of the Hermitage 20/21 project, an ambitious attempt to extend the museum’s display of post-1917 art. The scheme’s advisor is Sir Norman Rosenthal, exhibitions secretary of the Royal Academy.
The Hermitage has also confirmed reports that Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull could be loaned to the museum next spring, although arrangements have not been finalised.
In separate developments, a number of other important exhibitions are coming to Russia. A selection of English watercolours collected by Paul Mellon and left to the Yale Center for British Art, opened at the Hermitage on 23 October. Tate is sending its “Turner Prize: A Retrospective” (at Tate Britain until 6 January 2008) to Moscow’s Museum of Modern Art (7 February-30 March 2008). Finally, Tate is also negotiating to send a reduced version of the American touring exhibition on J.M.W. Turner (now in Washington, and going on to Dallas and New York) to the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, for October 2008.