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9 Dec, 2023 13:01

Access to masterpieces should be restricted – Hermitage Museum director

Mikhail Piotrovsky believes that huge crowds of visitors should become a thing of the past so people can enjoy the art
Access to masterpieces should be restricted – Hermitage Museum director

The renowned Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is rethinking the way museums manage crowds, according to comments by its director.

In an interview with Russian media outlet RBK published on Saturday, Mikhail Piotrovsky cited the way access to Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ is arranged at the Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Milan, saying, “there will be such restricted access to the reliquary of [medieval Russian ruler] Alexander Nevsky.

Piotrovsky said large groups are a “plague for the museum” as they tend to “move loudly [and] congest the passages.” The Hermitage is now working to relegate group tours to mornings and evenings, shifting the focus to individual repeat visitors.

The director added that the number of visitors has more or less returned to pre-pandemic levels – the figure is expected to reach 3 million by the end of the year for the Hermitage alone. He said, however, that the museum does not seek to attract as many people as possible, but instead a number that it can comfortably welcome. He also noted an uptick in the number of individual tourists visiting the Hermitage, as well as younger visitors and those with children.

According to Piotrovsky, the museum stopped charging foreigners higher prices for tickets a few years ago – a practice he described as “colonial mentality.” At present, the standard price for entry is 500 rubles ($5). He noted that the museum grants free or discounted access to certain categories of Russian nationals, accounting for 30% of all visitors.

Regarding cooperation with Western museums and galleries, Piotrovsky said there is a de facto boycott in place which prevents his European and American colleagues from interacting with Russians. He added that while “this situation is far worse than during the Soviet times,” personal relations remain. Piotrovsky said that Russia will invariably remain not just “part of European culture, but Asian as well.