Saatchi gets a room at the Hermitage to showcase art collection

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The Independent Online

The State Hermitage Museum, which houses one of the world's most celebrated art collections including imperial works from Tsarist Russia and masterpieces by Michelangelo, Rubens and Rembrandt, is to create a "Charles Saatchi room" to showcase the British collector's most cutting-edge acquisitions.

The vast museum in St Petersburg, which consists of six buildings including the Winter Palace and owns three million works, hopes to display as much of Saatchi's works as possible in a dedicated room of "rotating displays".

A spokeswoman for Mr Saatchi said he had agreed to loan his contemporary works, which range from the conceptual creativity of the Young British Artists in the 1990s to avant-garde Chinese artists working under or referring critically to Mao's regime.

Mr Saatchi confirmed that curators from the Hermitage had approached him with the idea of creating a room named after him, adding: "I am a Hermitage groupie, one of the museum's greatest admirers."

The room will be in former government offices in Palace Square, which are being restored to provide a home for the Hermitage's collection of 19th- to 21st-century art, according to November's edition of The Art Newspaper .

Dimitri Ozerkov, the new curator of contemporary art at the Hermitage, said he was keen to broaden the museum's displays to include works which were unfamiliar to generations of Russians who were denied access to contemporary art during the Soviet regime. The museum is also trying to borrow Damien Hirst's diamond-encrusted skull for display in St Petersburg by next year.

Mr Ozerkov approached Mr Saatchi because of his international standing as a pioneer of future art stars. He has famously championed artists such as Stella Vine, Paula Rego, Hirst and Tracey Emin, who are sometimes referred to as his "discoveries".

Works by Chinese artists, including some who worked under an oppressive communist regime, will be among the first to travel to Russia, although they could be followed by the works of the YBAs at a late date. Chinese artworks to be displayed in Russia will include Zhang Xiaogang's A Big Family, from 1995, for which Saatchi paid $1.4m, the highest price for a contemporary Chinese artist at the time, as well as Shi Xinning's Mao and McCarthy, from 2005.

The move to create the room follows the opening of Saatchi's USA Today exhibition unveiled in Russia last week after its launch at the Royal Academy in London last year.

The opening of the show marks the launch of the Hermitage's 20/21 project, which is an attempt to extend the museum's display of art produced after the 1917 Communist Revolution. The scheme's adviser is Sir Norman Rosenthal, exhibitions secretary at the RA.

A Saatchi Gallery spokeswoman said that the idea to have a room specifically dedicated to changing displays of art was first brought up at meeting in London when the director of the Hermitage, Professor Mikhail Piotrovsky, met Mr Saatchi to discuss the 20/21 initiative.

Mr Ozerkov said: "We wanted to start our programme of contemporary art with a very important name and we came up with Saatchi. He is one of the most important players in contemporary art and the person most closely related to big British names such as Hirst and Emin."

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