Hermitage curator claims McCartney concert may have damaged paintings

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The protectors of Russia's greatest cultural treasure - the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg - have claimed that the concert by Sir Paul McCartney may have seriously damaged the building and its paintings

The protectors of Russia's greatest cultural treasure - the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg - have claimed that the concert by Sir Paul McCartney may have seriously damaged the building and its paintings

In a bad-tempered stand-off between high and low culture, the museum's head claims that a recent concert by the former Beatle in a square adjacent to the museum was dangerously loud and that the resulting vibrations have already caused damage to the world-famous Hermitage.

The museum is housed in the Winter Palace, a former residence of Russia's tsars and tsarinas, and contains thousands of priceless paintings and artefacts.

Much of the museum looks out over the city's magnificent Palace Square which is where Sir Paul gave his 3,000th concert to around 50,000 fans on Sunday.

But according to Mikhail Piotrovsky, the museum's director, the resulting disruption and damage was simply irresponsible and too high a price to pay.

Mr Piotrovsky is quoted in yesterday's daily Komsomolskaya Pravda as saying that cracks have begun to appear in some of the rich stucco in the Winter Palace and that the museum's walls and windows physically shook during the concert.

He also complained that the vibrations may lead to tiny cracks opening up in some of the Hermitage's paintings in years to come and said that the alarm system had gone off several times.

"Paul McCartney's concert on Palace Square was an example of what never to do in any circumstances," he wrote in a fierce polemic in Izvestia . "Sometimes we don't even transport our paintings by plane because of vibrations but have to use special vans. And yet McCartney's concert produced a pernicious level of noise much greater than that of one plane."

Mr Piotrovsky also complained that the concert's organisers had let off a series of fireworks which, he said, were "categorically banned in the area". There were many other suitable venues in the northern city, he added.

Holding similar concerts in Moscow's Red Square was also a terrible idea, he said, complaining of the aesthetic and moral effect that such a spectacle produced on an onlooker.

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