More than one hundred portraits, by paintings painted in the 16th century to poses taken by contemporary photographersreflecting love, passion and tragedy in real-life stories, an autumn exhibition opening a new page for the Hermitage in Amsterdam following the severing of its historic ties with Russia due to the war in Ukraine.
There are those from the world of music or cinema such as the “muse” Audrey Hepburn or Yoko Ono and John Lennon, royal couples like Harry and Meghan, revolutionary figures like Oscar Wilde and even portraits of the future like Harmony, a humanoid sex robot. But they all reflect the central point of the exhibition “Historias de amor” (Love Stories).
Many of the pieces travel from National Portrait Gallery in Londonhave passed through USAand arrive in Amsterdam for their continental European premiere along with a series of 16 portraits of Dutch artists and photographers from this Saturday until January 8. The London Gallery has the largest collection of portraits in the world.
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“This exhibition is a prelude to what people can expect from us in the future (…). This is the beginning of a new beginning,” said Annabelle Birney, director of this art gallery, referring to its new scene after “breaks ties” with the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburgthe sister art gallery in Russia, giving it access for 30 years to one of the most famous art collections on the planet.
Although he declined to say who he was negotiating with, Birney assured that the Dutch museum would work with other galleries in other countries to continue “building great designs, telling fantastic stories, connecting people through art and collaborating with international museums”.
“For a long time, the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam stayed out of political events in (Vladimir) Putin’s Russia., as politics focuses on everyday reality and our orientation is in the treasures and movements of art that span centuries (…). Russia’s recent attack on Ukraine makes this estrangement no longer sustainable,” the museum said last March, in its rift with Moscow.
The exhibition features masterpieces that represent ideas about love and together paint “a moving image of how love and desire have influenced portraiture from the late 16th century to the present day” and are essentially a series of real-life stories “about love in all her forms; from romantic love to the artist’s obsession with a muse, and from romantic tragedies and sorrows to love that triumphs against all odds,” the museum says.
The pieces are made by artists such as the Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), the Swiss Angelica Kaufmann (1741-1807), the American photographer Lee Miller (1907-1977), the British artist Lucian Freud (1922-2011) and also the British David Hockney (1937).
While the couples who set the faces of this exhibition range from the legendary Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas; John Lennon and Yoko Ono; Prince Charles and Princess Diana; Victoria and David Beckham; Emma Hamilton and Admiral Lord Nelson, as well as Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.
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Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, believes that Love Stories is an exhibition that “explores connected themes, from romantic love, obsession and infatuation to tragedy and loss” and emphasized that “At the heart of this exhibition is a series of real-life love stories that are universal and describe the human experience.”
“Stories of love and tragedy” that include Prince Charles’ relationship with Diana or Enrique and Meghan’s escape from the palace, but also the portrait of Harmony, the humanoid robot who questions the idea of a couple. Harmony “responds to human movement and touch with natural facial expressions, verbal and non-verbal communication. The owner enters into a social and, if desired, sexual relationship with the robot, which is similar to a (romantic) relationship between two people,” the museum says, jumping into what may be the future of another type of love.
Efe / Amsterdam