On 7 February 2020, as part of the exhibition “I have turned my only face...” Paintings by Adrian Ghenie, the General Staff building became the setting for the formal presentation of Adrian Ghenie’s painting “The Hunter” as a gift to the State Hermitage and the launch of the exhibition catalogue.
As Mikhail Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage, observed: “We have received a gift and say thank you for the present. We are pleased that the exhibition has been a success, in keeping with the slogan ‘Nowhere but in the Hermitage!’ We thank Thaddaeus Ropac, the gallerist with whom we jointly made the Anselm Kiefer exhibition, we thank Adrian Ghenie, the creator of this exhibition. He is reviving the manner of painting well with brush and oils and orientates himself on classic art. In his works one can detect allusions to old art: his Hunter is inspired by the Flemish artist Jan Wildens’s painting of a Hunter with Game and has echoes of Van Gogh’s Traveller and Henri Rousseau’s hunting scenes. The catalogue has turned out splendidly. The reproductions in it resemble those of paintings from the Hermitage collection by the Iskusstvo publishing house with which the artist became acquainted at one time.”
In his response, Adrian Ghenie emphasized: “It is a great honour and privilege for me to be in the Hermitage. It was an enormous pleasure to work on this exhibition from beginning to end.”
Adrian Ghenie is a young Romanian-born artist, who in recent years has become without exaggeration one of the most successful young artists in Europe. In the 2010s, his career rapidly took off and he turned from a regular member of the Romanian art scene into a figure constantly in the view of the worldwide museum community. A participant in the Venice Biennale in 2015, Ghenie has also had personal exhibitions in major galleries around the globe. His works can be found in such leading museums as the Tate Modern in London, the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
The uniqueness of Ghenie’s story lies in his connection from the first with the Hermitage. At an early age, the young Adrian was given an album of Dutch paintings produced by the Iskusstvo publishing house and it became his chief source of inspiration for a long time. Over many years the future artist copied step by step the reproductions of the masterpieces in the Saint Petersburg museum, eventually arriving at his own artistic style.
People have described Ghenie’s manner of painting as hybrid, dynamic and cinematographic. He often draws upon traditional painting and produces replicas of classic pictures. After a visit to the Hermitage in 2017. he conceived a series of works, the basis for which might be paintings from the museum’s collection. The dozen works created specially for this project are currently on display in the artist’s personal exhibition in the General Staff building, at the conclusion of which one of them will remain permanently in the Hermitage.
The choice of the painting “Hunter” as a gift to the museum is no coincidence. The work is a direct allusion to the Hermitage’s painting by Jan Wildens “Hunter with Dogs in a Landscape” in which the restrained basic palette derived from the works of Low Countries artists is disrupted by Ghenie’s characteristic explosions of colour.
A scholarly illustrated catalogue has been produced for the exhibition in Russian and English with a foreword by Mikhail Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage (Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, 2020). The texts are by Dmitry Ozerkov, head of the State Hermitage’s Department of Contemporary Art, and Anastasia Veyalko, a member of the same department.