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  • Writer's pictureDimitri Ozerkov

USA Today: New American Art from The Saatchi Gallery

When:  24.11.2007 - 13.01.2008

Where:  Hermitage, Saint-Petersburg, Russia


At the General Staff Building a new exhibition USA Today is on display which is a collection of contemporary American art from the Saatchi Gallery London. The exhibition opens the Hermitage 20/21 project. This is a massive scheme to broaden the collection of Western 20th century art at the State Hermitage Museum, with the goal of presenting famous works by contemporary Western artists. The museum already displays several 20th century masterpieces, including works of Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky and Malevich, but since 1917 the collection of contemporary art has barely increased. The project Hermitage 20/21 should fill this gap and make the museum a leading force in the integration of Russia into the international contemporary art scene. The USA Today exhibition is an excellent start to such a programme. It presents the most interesting and the latest works from the Saatchi Gallery, one of the world's leading contemporary art galleries. For the past 20 years this gallery has brought to light the works of more than 150 artists and helped develop the careers of many of them, for example Damian Hirst, Tracy Emin, Jenny Saville and Jake and Dinos Chapman, members of the now well known Young British Artists' movement. There are approximately 60 works of art by 21 artists on display, created within the last three years by young artists, who have come into maturity under the symbol of the 9/11 terrorist attack of 2001 in New York, America. Eight of the participants of the exposition were born in other countries, such as China, France, Kenya and Poland, which also reflects the character of contemporary America. Adam Cvijanovic (born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA), presents his Love Poem (10 minutes after the end of gravity), a hyper-realist rendition of suburban America thrown into artful confusion and wrapped around an entire room. Terence Koh (Beijing-New York) created a magical chandelier from "paint, lollipops, vegetable matter, human and horse hair, mineral oil, rope from a ship found after midnight, glass shards, stones and artist's blood and shit". Kristin Baker (Stamford, Connecticut, USA), the daughter of a racing car driver, depicts on her canvasses speed and risk, exploding with colour in a manner reminiscent of Kandinsky. The first showing of the USA Today exhibition took place in the Royal Academy of Art in London, in November 2006. Sir Norman Rosenthal, the curator of the exhibition from the Royal Academy of Art and a consultant for the Hermitage 20/21 project wrote: "In this selection of young artists' work, each one confronts not only his own existential questions but also global poverty and inequality and population migrations, not to mention the gigantic environmental problems that confront the USA and the world as a whole". The new selection of American art for the exhibition in the State Hermitage Museum was made by Charles Saatchi, Sir Norman Rosenthal, and also Dmitry Ozerkov, the director of the Hermitage 20/21 project, a senior researcher at the Department of Western European Art at the State Hermitage Museum and exhibition curator. The exhibition includes a whole range of new works never previously exhibited. "I am a Hermitage groupie - one of the museum's greatest admirers," explains Charles Saatchi. "It is a great pleasure for me to be able to provide the opening show for a project which, I am sure, will gather momentum in introducing contemporary art to a Russian audience." The exhibition is located in the recently restored second and third stories of the General Staff Building. The building is located on Palace Square opposite the Winter Palace. The General Staff Building was constructed in neo-classicist style to the plans of Carlo Rossi in 1829, serving initially as the principal office for the ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs. The building was handed over to the State Hermitage Museum in the beginning of the 1990s and is currently undergoing restoration. According to the plans, the restorations should be completed in 2014 when the State Hermitage Museum will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the palace. The art collections from the 19th, 20th and 21th centuries will be displayed in new, specially designed halls. The Hermitage 20/21 project was an initiative of Professor Mikhail Piotrovsky, the Director of the State Hermitage Museum. "The State Hermitage Museum is one of the few universal museums, whose encyclopaedic collections reflect all forms of cultural inheritance, in different countries around the world in different times," said Prof. Piotrovsky. "The 20th century has ended, and it is now time for us to present its art in a historical context, in which we have presented the artworks of previous centuries. And if the museum wants to flourish, we must present what is new and the best that we can find around the world today." An academic, illustrated catalogue has been prepared for the exhibition. Its introduction is written by Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage Museum. The articles are written by Sir Norman Rosenthal and Dmitry Ozerkov. The catalogue is published in English and Russian by Fontanka Press, London 2007. The 'USA Today - New American Art from The Saatchi Gallery' exhibition was organized with the support of Coca-Cola (CIS) and UBS Bank. The catalogue was published with the help of Ilim Group. Information sponsors of the exhibition: journals The New World of Art and Hermitage, paper Peterburg Na Nevskom, Radio Hermitage and Echo of Moscow.

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