Hermitage Amsterdam Rebrands as a ‘Museum for Museums’

The museum's new direction will consist of rotating exhibitions held in partnership with institutions in Paris, London and Washington, D.C.

In March of 2022, the Hermitage Amsterdam, a Dutch museum operating as the largest outpost of the State Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg, cut ties with its Russian partner. Now the museum is taking the separation one step further by rebranding in both structure and name.

Brick building with Dutch flag flying atop.
Hermitage Amsterdam announced a new structure and name yesterday. Roy Beusker

The fresh start comes with the announcement of three separate international partnerships with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Centre Pompidou and British Museum. “We are building on our experience in the international field and are now spreading our wings,” said Hermitage Amsterdam director Annabelle Birnie in a statement. “It’s an exciting new step for us, a contemporary and future-proof model,” she added. The museum will also rename itself as the H’ART Museum as of September 1.

Located on the banks of Amsterdam’s Amstel River, Hermitage Amsterdam is housed in a building which previously operated as an elder care facility from the 17th century until 2007. It launched as a museum in 2009 through loans from the State Hermitage Museum, opening with the exhibition At the Russian Court. But this relationship ended last year when the Russian invasion of Ukraine made these ties “no longer tenable,” according to the museum. “War destroys everything,” said Hermitage Amsterdam at the time. “Even 30 years of collaboration.”

How will its new partnerships work?

While the institution survived over the past few months through loans from museums across the Netherlands and support from the Museums Association, its new structure will see a consistent rotation of collections from renowned art institutions worldwide. Hermitage Amsterdam is already showcasing work from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, located in Washington, D.C., through its current exhibition of Martine Gutierrez’s 2012 Clubbing video installation. Meanwhile, its first major show as the H’ART Museum will be Kadinsky, planned for mid-2024 and held in partnership with the Parisian Centre Pompidou. And London’s British Museum will loan its Feminine power exhibition to the newly named museum by 2026.

“We’re excited to work together and to reach new visitors with the stories from our collection,” said Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum, in a statement to Observer. “In today’s fractious world, international museum collaboration has never been more important, and every museum worldwide can have a role in uniting audiences in the common stories of our humanity.”

Two men and two women pose with tote bags reading "H'ART."
Laurent Le Bon (Centre Pompidou president), Annabelle Birnie (H’ART Museum director), Stephanie Stebich (Smithsonian American Art Museum director) and Paul Mosterd (H’ART Museum deputy director). Eva Bloem

Hermitage Amsterdam, which is signing contracts for the three partnerships, will host five exhibitions from Centre Pompidou over the next five years. The Smithsonian American Art Museum and British Museum, meanwhile, will work on three exhibitions respectively over the next six years. “We’re going to be like a museum for museums,” Birnie told the New York Times.

The Dutch museum is additionally entering a new funding partnership with the ELJA Foundation, a philanthropic fund focused on cultural organizations, and will receive support from corporations like Heineken, ABN AMRO bank and lottery group VriendenLoterij. It also plans to celebrate Amsterdam’s 750th anniversary with a 2025 exhibition of the Leiden Collection, the most significant private collection of 17th-century Dutch artwork. The show will mark the first time the collection’s seventeen Rembrandt works are shown to the public in a single exhibition.

Hermitage Amsterdam Rebrands as a ‘Museum for Museums’