The Hermitage museum in Amsterdam is renaming itself the H’ART Museum and has announced an official collaboration with three international museums giving it access to almost 160 million objects.
The independent museum, founded in 2009, formerly worked in partnership with the Hermitage St Petersburg, putting on exhibitions from the Russian museum’s vast collection. But on Thursday March 3, 2022, the Dutch museum ended its partnership “because of Russia’s attack on Ukraine”.
At a press conference in Amsterdam, director Annabelle Birnie announced that the museum will now continue in a formal partnership with three international institutions: the British Museum, Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
In a presentation in Dutch and English – including a heartfelt hug with deputy director Paul Mosterd – Birnie said a period of uncertainty was over. “Our programme will be attractive and themed from major art exhibitions to intimate presentations of work by contemporary artists,” said Birnie. “And, yes, this all calls for a new name that fits our ambitions, our place in the city and stands for connection, emotion and for a love that connects art, people and stories… art that transcends borders, international and universal: H’ART museum, our new name.”
The museum will continue its children’s and education programme and open a new restaurant that aims to be “a hotspot for the city” in September. It has scheduled a major Kandinsky exhibition with the modern art Centre Pompidou mid-2024, a British Museum show Feminine power in 2026 and already has a Smithsonian American Art Museum video installation, Clubbing, by Martine Gutierrez on show in a special room. Another highlight will be a show of 17 Rembrandts from The Leiden Collection, a private art collection, during Amsterdam’s 750th birthday year of 2025.
Stephanie Stebich, director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, said the Dutch museum would not just have access to its collection of 48,000 pieces, from folk art to works on paper, but also to the 155 million objects from the Smithsonian family of institutions. “It’s important that we share our unique collection of American stories through our collections with the world,” she said. “Our collections span the 17th to the 21st centuries, rich collections on which to build exciting, diverse, comprehensive and inclusive stories on the American experience. We are delighted.”
Lauren le Bon, president of the Centre Pompidou, said the collaboration may have first been raised during a boozy lunch, but the partnership was serious and sober. “We are at a difficult time in the world, so I think this initiative is very exciting,” he told Dutch News. “This is a superb rebound after a really tricky time, and we are very happy to be part of this new constellation. As the saying goes, everything that doesn’t destroy us makes us stronger.”
The museum said its sponsors now include the ELJA Foundation alongside the VriendenLoterij, Heineken and ABN Amro, but declined to give financial figures on the sponsorship or new partnerships. As an independent institution, once a huge tourist attraction, it suffered particularly in the pandemic.
Birnie said that its audience could decide whether or not the name still referred to the Hermitage title. “Here at H’ART Museum, we believe in a free, inclusive society, and that art has an important role to play,” she said. “That is what motivates us, and what makes our hearts beat faster.”
When their new colleagues pronounced the new name, with the non-aspirated ‘h’ of the French accent, it sounded even better, she added: “Lauren le Bon doesn’t say ‘H’ART’– he just says ’art.”
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