SOURCE: LA Times (7-17-11)
In a wide-ranging trip to Europe this year, I found three major new museums to love: in Amsterdam, the first satellite branch of Russia's celebrated Hermitage; in Rome, a long-awaited museum for contemporary arts that is a work of art itself; and in Paris, a picture gallery with a constantly changing program of special exhibitions meant to shake up the enterprise of art appreciation.
The Hermitage Amsterdam
The Hermitage, begun by Empress Catherine II in 1764, has 350 galleries in a series of decaying royal palaces near the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia. But even they aren't enough to display the collection, 3 million artworks strong. When I visited the Hermitage during a long Russian winter some years go, many rooms were closed, and the heating system was so deficient that docents sat guard in coats and gloves.
Creating a satellite to display excess treasures from the Hermitage is an idea whose time has come, following in the footsteps of other museums with lesser collections, such as the Pompidou, now in the French town of Metz as well as in Paris, and the Guggenheim, which has planted offshoots in Venice, Italy; Berlin; Bilbao, Spain; and Abu Dhabi. Income from the Hermitage Amsterdam, a private institution, will help with upkeep at the Russian mother ship....