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French masterpiece and “The Dust”. The Headquarters building displayes Renoir’s painting and hosts a photo exhibition


The masterpiece of world art has been brought to the Hermitage from Paris – the painting by the renowned impressionist Pierre August Renoir – the “ball at the Moulin de la Galette”


The painting was drawn when the artist was at his prime, and is justly considered as France’s national treasure. Alexandra Lee found out what other surprises the Headquarters has for the guests.

In order to have a look at the only Renoir’s painting on display – which neighbors the one by his countryman Matisse – art lovers have to shoulder their way in. Hundreds of eyes are directed at it, while it teases with only just one dancing pair. That’s despite there are a lot more people on that painting. 20 portraits and no single sketch. This is the impressionist’s most crowded painting. And the largest one too. It has been moved to the Hermitage for a couple of months from the leading museum in Paris – the Orsay.

Mikhail Piotrovskiy, director of the State Hermitage: “This is the result of our mutual friendship with the Orsay. When they organize large exhibitions, we provide them with items. Bonar’s triptych went their way. Its another proof that the museum world is united and has no boundaries. Despite that customs do exist”

Some figures are drawn in defiance of traditions. They are smaller than others, say experts. But this does not diminish the mastery. To the contrary – the genius which was Renoir managed to liven up a moment of the Moulin de Galette ball, frozen in centuries, by performing this “distortion”

The exhibition is preceded by a multi-media canvass, which dissects the paining literally by strokes. Here are the portraits, here is the successful light solution. In a nutshell – all those things why the world sees it as a masterpiece. Here’s a rare moment – there are no spectators by the painting. But in the next two months there won’t be too many of those moments.

Alexandra Lee, reporter: “The small copy of this painting – done by the master himself – was sold at Sotheby’s for 78 million dollars. It is one of the most expensive. This painting is notable for the game of shadows portrayed by the author. See this ray of light? The master made it look like a photo. By the way, the year of photography also kicked off today within the same walls – at the Hermitage Headquarters building”

The now-empty halls of the exhibition shows pictures of empty buildings in Egypt. 40 of those – the result of 5 years of work. Not work even, life – in the destroyed and rebuilding Cairo, says the exhibition’s organizer Kseniya Nikolskaya.

Alexandra Lee, reporter: “I heard you had to bribe people to get into places. Have you had any criminal stories?’

Kseniya Nikolskaya, exhibition’s author: “I was arrested 3 times during my work. Even before the revolution, the police had detained me 3 times”

Almost without doing anything illegal, Kseniya managed to sneak into once grotesque but now almost empty “Radio” cinema hall. This is her favorite picture. Until the end of the 20th century, Egypt was the “Middle-Eastern Hollywood” – Kseniya says. The country produced up to 4 thousand films a year. Now its not more than 4. Its sad statistics is reflected in destroyed interiors, abandoned buildings and broken history, mashed into dust. Dust – the idea of the exhibition and its name.

Mikhail Piotrovskiy, director of the State Hermitage: “Dust is an informal symbol of museums. It is also the symbol of Cairo. It’s a very good thing. Its much more obvious than dirt. We, residents of St. Petersburg, know – dust and dirt are two different things”

The photographer had to inhale a lot of it. At some point Cairo reminded the native city to her, but people are very different.

Kseniya Nikolskaya, exhibition’s author: “You cant feel alone in Cairo. It’s a problem. You are always surrounded by thousands of people there. If you live somewhere, you can always hear your neighbors. So it’s a happy moment to find yourself in the quietness of an abandoned building after these noisy streets”

In order for every visitor to be able to enjoy the Dust, the exhibition will last until May. And all this in the undusted entourage of the Headquarters.