Cultural exchange

Hermitage to strengthen cultural ties with Iran

St Petersburg museum director pledges closer relationship as countries develop tourism links

Russia and Iran are forging closer cultural relations as both countries open their doors to tourists.  

Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the Hermitage, tells The Art Newspaper that the St Petersburg museum plans to step up ties with Iran and is revamping its permanent exhibition of Iranian art.

“We now have an agreement, reached in principle, about new contacts between our archeologists,” Piotrovsky says, adding that he expects that “archeologists will soon hold talks both about museum exchanges and about possible joint archeological work”.

The Hermitage, which has an extensive Persian collection, hosted the Eighth European Conference of Iranian Studies in 2015. An exhibition about Ibn Battuta, the 14th-century Berber traveller and scholar who visited Iran, was held to coincide with the event. The Hermitage is also interested in Iranian contemporary art, with Piotrovsky confirming that trips by the museum’s contemporary art specialists are planned.

Meanwhile, Russia and Iran signed a tourism co-operation agreement in Tehran in February and culture is being emphasised as one of the main draws for tourists from both countries. They also agreed last year to simplify visa procedures.

Rostourism, Russia’s federal tourism agency, which is under the ministry of culture, noted in a report on its website that Iran is a “promising destination for educational tourism”, citing the country’s 19 Unesco World Heritage sites. It was unclear how plans to encourage Russians to visit Kish, the Iranian island resort, would fit in with their love of open bars and sunbathing. Rostourism also said it was working on making Russia’s hospitality sector “halal friendly”.