Mikhail Dedinkin, deputy head of the Department of Western Art, has been working at the Hermitage Museum for more than 30 years; he has been studying modern art - his favorite - all his life. In 2013 he and Albert Kostenevich, a colleague and a leading expert in modern French art, received grants from the Vladimir Potanin Foundation for a series of exhibitions that took place at the Hermitage Amsterdam Exhibition Center.
With the help of this grant they prepared three ambitious exhibitions to showcase the Hermitage collection of modern French art to the European audience. Moreover, their idea was to go beyond French art, and to try to reveal this theme more broadly by putting it into the dynamic context of the era. The first exhibition was called From Matisse to Malevich and it was a great success with the public in the West; the reviews and media coverage were excellent, and the exhibition became one of the most visited in the Hermitage Amsterdam Exhibition Center over the past several years. This was the first time such a large collection of modern art masterpieces was taken outside Russia and presented to the Amsterdam public. It featured artworks from one of the world’s best collections of French art of the beginning of the 20th century - true masterpieces by the pioneers of avant-guarde: Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Kees Van Dongen, Maurice de Vlaminck, as well as the works of their famous Russian contemporaries – Kazimir Malevich and Vasiliy Kandinskiy. Almost all of the works came from the State Hermitage permanent collection in the Winter Palace.
The following exhibition highlighed the sources that gave rise to modern French art. Amsterdam saw paintings by impressionist artists and their contemporaries that ruled the Salons. These celebrated maitres were once highly regarded but are unfortunately forgotten these days. This exhibition encouraged the audience to think over the concept of contemporary art, proved that often our opinion about contemporary art is flawedand with time passing by the focus of attention shifts, and often those who were unnoticed might one fine day become mainstream in art history.
The last in the series was the exhibition of the three prophets of avant-guarde - Gauguin, Bonnard, and Denis. It opened in September 2013 and will continue until March 2014. Interestingly, the exhibition shows modern French Art the way it was seen by Shchukin and Morozov, leading art collectors from Russia in the early 20th century, which is reflected in the name of the exhibition – the Russian Taste. In addition to what could be considered mainstream art, they collected art that they simply liked in a very personal way. That indeed was the Russian Taste for very colorful, decorative, unusual art. The project involved designers who rebuilt the music salon in the Hermitage Amsterdam Center that existed in the Moscow mansion of Ivan Morozov. By recreating architectural details, the project team tried to show why those particular works of art – some gigantic, 3 meter by 4 canvases – were commissioned by the art collector. The idea turned a success so in 2014 there is a plan to recreate a similar salon as a part of the new exhibition at the Hermitage main building.