Beauty saves vacation: 3 fantastically beautiful museums in St. Petersburg

04 March 2021

A visit of any is a real art therapy

Julia Smirnova, Komsomolskaya Pravda


Come to St. Petersburg and to go to a museum is the most obvious idea. Even more obvious is only to walk along Nevsky or go to Palace Square. You need only to choose: the Hermitage or the Russian Museum, the Kunstkamera, ethnographic or Naval Museum. You may even come to the northern capital of Russia every weekend and open for yourself a new museum (or two, or three). And then a new restaurant. Or two or three. But this is a separate topic, now - about art. And about beauty.


There is no need to invite connoisseurs of contemporary art to Erarta: it is the largest private collection of contemporary art in Russia, which contains almost 3 thousand paintings, sculptures, installations of the second half of the 20th - early 21st centuries. But even if you are not at all close to any aesthetics, and you are fan of classical landscapes and portraits, then Erarta gives you a chance. You will probably like the museum at least because there is a painting by Sergei Shnurov (called "Shirt") and Louboutin shoes nailed to the floor next to it - yes, "Sergei took me to an exhibition of Van Gogh."


Or maybe, in general, look at the "strange" and "incomprehensible" contemporary art in a new way. Guides in "Erarta" know how to show, explain, and to involve in this world of art. Reflections of the Soviet and post-Soviet times. Experiments with materials. Reflections of personality and time, both totalitarian and current, the era of consumption.


For example, a demonstration of women workers with carpets instead of banners - the painting "The Russians are Coming" by Anatol Gankevich (2014). From afar it seems like a mosaic, in fact - an unusual technique of oil painting. What is it about? About the eternal striving for home comfort and personal happiness, no matter what calls are on the stands? Or here is the place of the usual "canvas, oil" - "canvas, Kuzbasslak". Ilya Gaponov's painting "Kuzbass Parallel" (2007) was painted with coal-tar varnish, which usually serves as a prosaic anti-corrosion coating. Or: “carpet, oil” is “Self-portrait with Malevich and Van Gogh” by Yuri Tatyanin (2006).


The Cherry Orchard exhibit is one of the “total installations”, there are six of them in Erarta. You look from the inside and notice the magical world of pink balls and mirrors.


Temporary exhibition "Maestro Philip Tracy", until March, 21. Hats as a work of art created by the "main hatter of the world" by Briton Philip Tracy, who creates hats for Madonna and Lady Gaga and works with fashion houses Chanel and Armani. Hat-ship and hat-lock, hats made of feathers and plastic, even the actual topic of masks - there is a Venetian one and consists entirely of sparkling rhinestones.


St. Petersburg State Academy of Arts named after A.L. Stieglitz is called "St. Petersburg Hogwarts". You enter like through a portal and find yourself in different eras and countries. One hall is like a Russian traditional house, the other is the castle of an English lord, the third is an Italian palazzo, a spiral carved staircase leads up to the ceiling, in the gallery of the main hall there is a copy of the Pergamon altar. Here are also works of students. The Academy is primarily an educational institution. Here they study costume and furniture design, industrial and graphic design, book graphics, artistic processing of glass, ceramics, and textiles. In general, the creation of beauty. Isn't it magic?


The academy was founded in 1876 with a generous donation of the banker and industrialist Alexander Ludvigovich Stieglitz. At that time it was called the Central School of Technical Drawing, then came many reforms and names of the Academy. The most famous, perhaps, is the Leningrad Higher School of Industrial Art named after Vera Mukhina. Graduates worked at the Imperial Porcelain Factory and in Faberge jewelry workshops, in the post-war period they restored the palace and park ensembles of Pavlovsk, Pushkin, Peterhof, were the designers of the Soviet Volga and Niva cars, the Meteor and Raketa hydrofoils.


Let us return to the museum of the academy. The Stieglitz museum of Applied Arts was opened in 1896; after the revolution, it became a branch of the Hermitage museum. Among the most impressive features of the museum are the hall of 18th century glazed tile stoves, collections of porcelain and ceramics from Europe and Asia, mosaics and stained-glass windows, furniture and murals, Russian costumes from the Northern provinces and ethnographic dolls - a total of 2 thousand exhibits in 14 halls and galleries, the interiors of which are themselves works of art.

Temporary exhibitions: The museum hosts exhibitions of student artworks. For example, we got a chance to visit a textile goods design exhibition, but there will be others. It gives a visitor an opportunity to compare the designs of past centuries with modern trends.

A museum that makes you to examine everything in minutest detail and photograph each and every exhibit. We aren`t speaking only about the famous Carl Faberge Imperial Easter eggs, but also Russian enamels, pearl- embroidered icons and icons decorated with gold and silver granulation work; about the cups, that look as if they were woven from birch bark, but in fact are cast from silver. Moreover, don`t forget the very halls of the Shuvalov Palace on the Fontanka river, with their mirrors, chandeliers and exquisite ceiling decorations.

The Faberge Museum is private and relatively new, being opened in 2013. In 2004, entrepreneur Viktor Vekselberg acquired 200 Faberge masterpieces, including 9 Easter eggs created by the jeweler for the imperial family. Then the cultural and historical fund "Svyaz` Vremen" (“Link of Times”) came into being, over time the collection was being replenished with items created by Russian jewelers of the 19th - early 20th centuries (Pavel Ovchinnikov, Antip Kuzmichev, Ivan Khlebnikov, Fyodor Rückert and others – truth be told, their names should be no less famous than the names of Repin or Polenov).

Now the collection contains over 1000 priceless exhibits. The most notable and valuable are the nine Easter eggs ordered from the Faberge firm by Alexander III and Nicholas II as gifts for Empresses Maria Feodorovna and Alexandra Feodorovna.

The Coronation Egg exhibit is one of these masterpieces. It is made of gold, silver, platinum, diamonds and rock crystal. Faberge received this commission in 1897 on occasion of the coronation of Nicholas II and his wife. The egg by master Mikhail Perkhin sparkles with gold enamel, the top of it is adorned with a diamond with the empress's monogram made of diamonds and rubies. Each Easter egg has a surprise inside, and often more than just one.

In the museum, all the surprises are on display next to each other, in plain sight, but let`s imagine the delight of the empress opening this precious gift and founding them inside! The "Coronation Egg" conceals a miniature copy of the carriage of Catherine II, in which Alexandra Feodorovna entered Moscow. The miniature carriage has functional wheels and springs, its doors open, the blinds on the windows are made of rock crystal, the velvet upholstery in the salon is enamel. Miniaturist Georg Stein worked on it for 15 months, 16 hours a day! By the way, this jewelry copy helped the restorers of the real carriage of Catherine the Great, which is kept in the Hermitage museum.

The article was written as a result of a series of 5 press tours that took place from November 28 to December 7, 2020 in the Northern capital. It was attended by 50 journalists and bloggers from different regions of Russia.


Photo: Yulia Smirnova, Komsomolskaya Pravda.