Exhibition at the Kremlin Museums 'The Golden Age of the English Court: from Henry VIII to Charles II' (photo: British Council)
The Russians preserved treasures that would have, years ago, been melted for military campaigns in England. Moscow’s Kremlin Museums now have them on display, along with other exhibits from about a dozen UK collections. Our director in Russia writes from the press conference.
Well, that started the day well — a supposedly 15-minute car journey to the Kremlin coincided with President Putin’s departure from the same and resulted in me arriving five minutes late for a press conference and having to squeeze myself into the central seat of five while Martin Roth, director of the V&A, was in full flight on my right.
Fortunately, I was on third, so had time to gather my thoughts. Unfortunately, my late arrival was noted by at least ten TV cameras and more than 60 journalists. Not an auspicious start.
The press conference was chaired by the Kremlin Museums director, Elena Gagarina, for the launch of a beautifully curated exhibition of objects illustrating ‘The “Golden Age” of the English Court’.
Selected loans from more than ten public and private British collections, including a large number from the V&A, make up the exhibition with objects ranging from Henry VIII’s armour to the exquisite Hilliard miniatures so little known to a Russian audience.
I kept away from the academic commentary, so much better dealt with by those involved in the exhibition’s curation, and focused on the cultural relations aspects of the exhibition. For, this is not only an exhibition curated for a Russian public; it returns to London in March 2013, augmented by some of the most amazing pieces of pre-Revolution (yes, we had one too) British silverware anywhere in the world.
Unlike our own history, which had most royal silverware melted down to pay for military campaigns, Russian history ensured that it was treasured and protected.
So next year, the V&A will host the same, but augmented, exhibition that will also tell the story of how our own Tudor and Stuart history mingled with that of Tsarist Russia.”
I used the press platform to remind the audience about the fact that 2014 will be the UK/Russia Year of Culture, made possible by the strong relationships and trust that exists between Russian and British cultural organisations as illustrated by V&A and the Kremlin Museums.
Fortunately, Martin Roth sees things in the same way and reinforced this by talking about the V&A’s keenness to be involved in long-term relationships with Russia and in celebrating the UK/Russia Year of Culture in 2014. How good to work with such enlightened colleagues.
The day started to look up as the traffic subsided. The exhibition was opened by Prince Michael of Kent and Elena Gagarina (I’m not sure which one looked more Russian!) against a backdrop of positive press coverage and universal audience acclaim.
That one done and dusted, it was time for me and the arts team to move on to the next event – the opening of a Marc Quinn exhibition at the Multi-media Art Museum of Moscow (MAMM).
Paul de Quincey is British Council Director Russia.
The exhibition is open between 24 October 2012 and 27 January 2013.