Russia’s leading cultural figures and institutions usually refrain from voicing propaganda – until now – with recent statements made by Mikhail Piotrovsky, head of Russia’s Hermitage museum being widely criticized for their “cynicism and cruelty”.
The Kremlin is known for emphasizing Russian culture in its propaganda, and on June 22, Rossiyskaya Gazeta published an interview with Piotrovsky in which he complained about the “cancellation” of Russian culture and compared the modern West with the USSR.
In reply to a question about Russia’s war in Ukraine, he said that “we are all militarists and imperialists”.
“There are situations when it’s evident that a person should be with his country”, he added, saying that the invasion of Ukraine, and indeed war itself, is “self-affirmation of the nation.”
Russian opposition journalists condemned Piotrovsky, labelling his interview comments as “fascism”.
Piotrovsky went on to state his support for a “Russian cultural offensive” on other nations, and voiced his appreciation to the Louis Vuitton Foundation for its controversial extension of his pro-Russian art exhibition – whilst other countries and organizations across the globe have cancelled exhibitions due to the war.
“Our cultural exports are more important than imports,” Piotrovsky said. “And our recent exhibitions abroad are just a powerful cultural offensive. It is a kind of special operation that many people don’t like. But we are coming. No one can be allowed to interfere with our offensive.
“As soon as all the ideological sirens went off in connection with the special operation in Ukraine, we first announced we would immediately take everything out. The Hermitage arranged the Morozov exhibition in Paris with the Louis Vuitton Foundation, and suddenly we realized that this global commercial company in today’s ‘Soviet’ Europe is a much better partner than state institutions.”
In spring, the Louis Vuitton Foundation supported an international exhibition in Paris of masterpieces from the French and Russian modern art collection of the brothers Mikhail and Ivan Morozov.
The support for Piotrovsky and the museum from such a high-profile organization as the Louis Vuitton Foundation has drawn criticism since the war began. However, the foundation has so far failed to issue a response to calls of condemnation or comment on Piotrovsky’s recent comments.
The exhibition was originally part of an effort by Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron to promote closer cultural ties between the two nations – before Russia instigated its brutal invasion of Ukraine.
The exhibition in Paris was personally signed off on by Vladimir Putin, and its opening in September 2021, was attended by Macron and highly-publicized.
According to Reuters, it was part of a cultural diplomacy initiative launched by Putin and Macron called the “Trianon Dialogue,” beginning in 2017. More than one million people visited the Louis Vuitton Foundation in subsequent months.
It continued to support the exhibition while Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, even extending the exhibit into April.
Despite calls for the trove of priceless paintings to be seized following Putin’s invasion in February, 2022, the artwork has now been returned to Moscow, Artnet News has confirmed.
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