The traditional Hermitage Days began in St. Petersburg on Friday December 7. According to the statement made at a press conference by Director of the State Hermitage, Mikhail Piotrovsky, the celebration pays tribute to Catherine the Great who founded the Hermitage and opened it on December 7, 1764.
Traditionally, Mr. Piotrovsky summed up the achievements of the Hermitage over the past year and laid out plans for the future. He called 2002 the year of the Black Square by Kazimir Malevich, which Vladimir Potanin purchased for the Hermitage museum for USD 1 million, and the Mexican exhibition entitled 'A Voyage to the Land of the Gods'. Mr. Piotrovsky said the Black Square had been the most significant acquisition in the past 100 years and called the Mexican art exhibit 'stunning', referring to the quality of the art items it had contained.
On December 7, the St. Catherine's Day, an exhibit entitled 'A Christmas Gift: Items from the Historical Collection of the Imperial Porcelain and Glass Factories of the 18th - Early 20th Centuries' opened in the Apollo Hall. Also, the International Conference of the Friends of the Hermitage continued. Its participants and those of 'The Hermitage in Russia' roundtable visited the Old Village restoration centre of the State Hermitage. A special program was prepared for the members of the International Club of the Friends of the Hermitage. During a solemn gathering in the Hermitage Theatre, a number of the club members and sponsors were awarded diplomas, medals, and other awards.
December 9 is St. George's Day. Planned is a common staff meeting of the Hermitage and, later, a concert presentation of the Admiralty Orchestra conducted by Commander Alexei Karabanov, a Deserved Artist of the Russian Federation. The celebration will culminate in a ceremony where a number of staff members of the Hermitage will receive state awards.
The Hermitage Days will continue through tomorrow to be concluded by a concert presentation in the Hermitage Theatre of composer Sergei Yevtushenko, the head of the Hermitage Music Academy.
In 2002, for the first time in the past decade, the budget of the State Hermitage exceeded that of the Soviet period. Speaking at the aforementioned press conference, Director of the State Hermitage, Mikhail Piotrovsky made a statement to this effect. Of a total of USD 27.9 million, USD 12.5 million covered the costs, the rest invested in capital construction. Of the total budget, 65% came in governmental subsidies and 35% was earned by the museum.