The show must go on…
Uit de keuken van de curator

The show must go on…

02/07/2013

I have to get on with this blog because otherwise I am getting behind. Where were we? Oh yes: in St. Petersburg.

We were hurrying from the meeting in Kempinski to the press preview of the Lissitzky – Kabakov exhibition in the Hermitage.

It is not very far from Moika to the Winter Palace and we went in through the staff entrance along the Neva river. Of course there was the usual waiting for passes etc. I had some time to check if we were properly mentioned in the Russian press release and we were indeed: Музей Ван Аббе was there several times. But I did not find any mention of the Dutch – Russian Year 2013…

After a while we were led to the exhibition that is on the top floor, next to the rooms with the famous Matisse paintings of the Shchukin collection. It was very hot in these rooms, far too hot for our works on paper. Would this be sufficient reason to cancel the show at the spot and create a big scandal? Luckily the light intensity was brought down to an acceptable level. Let’s have a peaceful opening and hope for the best with regard to climate control on the upper floor of the Winter Palace during summer…

The assistant of the department of communication came to me and asked if I would be willing to answer a question for Russian tv. I asked what the question would be (of course) and she said they wanted to know what the Dutch public thought of the Lissitzky – Kabakov exhibition. Now that is an easy question for me of course, because I live right next door to the Dutch public and it has told me many times what it thinks of the show. To make it easier for me I could answer in English. So I said that the Dutch public was very interested because the episode of Soviet art starting with Lissitzky and ending as it were with Kabakov is relatively unknown in the Netherlands. I wanted to say something else, but this was already enough. There is no place and time for any nuance in this medium. Make some nice pictures of crowded rooms and move on to the next ‘’item’. ‘Television’ means you can look very far. But what do you actually see?

Speaking of media: there were a lot of people making photographs of me and I asked myself why. Did they know who I was? And if so, am I that important? And also: do I want these people taking all these photographs of me? We are in the last evolutionary stage before collectively wearing Google Glasses. Everything that happens in our lives should be digitized and put online. And why? Because we continuously want to show the whole world what a marvelous life we lead…

After a while we were led out of the rooms to go to an adjoining room for the opening. There was a microphone and there were people that are really important: Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Mikhail Piotrovsky and Charles Esche. There were even more photographers taking their pictures and they certainly did not mind. They accepted this phenomenon as a necessary part of their fame. And then of course there were a lot of people looking at what was going to happen. Many of them of course were just passing by on their way to the exit or looking for it (by no means easy to find from room 343). At once I noticed it was only one o’clock and the opening had been announced at two. I asked the communication assistant about his crucial timespan of one hour. It turned out to be the difference between the last digital proof of the invitation that we had sent by mail to people we wanted to invite and the real (printed) invitation card. All the guests from our part (four of them had indeed come from the Netherlands to St. Petersburg for the opening) would be one hour too late and had a lot of difficulty getting in.



Exactly at one o’clock the speeches started with a word of welcome by the director of the Hermitage. Our museum was mentioned again and Ilya and Emilia were praised. In short: “Thank you very much everyone!” Charles was next. He started by saying that while preparing this exhibition in the Van Abbemuseum we had not realized ourselves to prepare for the tropics. A nice way of telling that it was too hot in here for both people and works of art. And after that one of his favourite themes: “Museums re-write history by means of exhibitions”. This statement is certainly valid in this case, but there are other exhibitions we made that require more explanation for me in this respect. And of course Charles also concluded with a list of people to be thanked. “Especially Willem Jan Renders.” Thank you Charles!

In the mean time it got more and more crowded in room 343. Because people could not move through properly they moved dangerously close to paintings by Vuillard, Bonnard and Denis amongst others. And there was no one to watch these works. I saw people actually (and involuntarily) touching the surface of one of these paintings! To open the exhibition Ilya and Emila had to cut the traditional cord and at that moment many flashlights lit the room. Then the merry company entered the rooms temporarily dedicated to this exhibition (334-342). I went to the balcony of the Alexander Hall to get some fresh air and sat there for a while. When after some time I wanted to go to the end of the exhibition to avoid the crowd, I saw Ilya and Emilia coming towards me. They were completely anonymous in the crowd of tourist visitors while ten minutes ago they were the centre of attention. They were exhausted and told me they would go to their hotel. We would meet there this evening to go to the Gala of the White Nights.

But before I go on writing I would like some feedback from my readers (if any). I have put some time and effort in this report, so I would like to know if there is anyone interested in the rest of my St. Petersburg story. I have for you: ‘Discussing Long Term Lissitzky Loans’, ‘The Lady in Green at the Hermitage White Nights Gala’, ‘A Remarkable Visit to Mikhail Karasik’ and ‘Fortress Totleben’. The last one I will write only if I get that far, but I like the title already…

My dear reader, please let me know if you want me to go on writing.

If I hear nothing my story ends here.

Thanks for reading anyway!