A statement on the foundation’s website reads: “We are deeply shocked by the events in Ukraine and have suspended all our activities with immediate effect and cancelled all scheduled events. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine.”
Based in London, the foundation was established in 2003 to assist the State Hermitage in “building cultural bridges between the UK and Russia.” Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the St. Petersburg museum for nearly 30 years, has been a trustee of the foundation since 2015 and serves as its president.
Piotrovsky, a highly visible arts professional in Russia, is now in a precarious position given the crackdown by Russian authorities on antiwar protests and free speech, with several outspoken art workers in the country reportedly having been forced from their roles. Last week, the artistic director of the V-A-C Foundation in Moscow, Francesco Manacorda, shared that he had resigned due to his support of Ukraine, and the deputy director of the Pushkin Museum, Vladimir Opredelenov, also announced plans to leave his post.
In a statement published by the U.S.-based Hermitage Museum Foundation, Piotrovsky wrote: “The world has gone mad, and it will never be the same again. Things that are happening right now are unfathomable, they should never happen.”
He continued: “Yet we must keep calm in this madness, because our mission of protecting cultural bridges between the nations has become even more important than ever. It is for us to keep this fragile connection between people, help the nations listen to each other and get back to dialogue instead of violence. Our coordinated efforts will be needed to help culture survive through turbulent times.”
The U.K.-based foundation’s decision follows a similar one earlier this week by the Amsterdam Hermitage to officially “severing ties” with its parent institution in St. Petersburg. The Dutch museum, established almost two decades ago, said that management had attempted to remain politically neutral but “the recent attack by Russia on Ukraine means that neutrality is no longer tenable,” though it said it would be open to reforging ties with the State Hermitage if Russia ends its military operation.
In addition to the Amsterdam outpost, the Hermitage maintains two locations elsewhere in Russia: the Hermitage Kazan and the Hermitage-Vyborg Center. In January, the museum backed off from a planned expansion to Barcelona that had become a fierce point of contention among residents and the local government. Neither Russian outpost has released a statement on the invasion of Ukraine.