Rendering of Toyo Ito’s design for the State Hermitage Museum’s Barcelona outpost. Courtesy of the State Hermitage Museum.

Barcelona Rejects Proposal for Branch of Russia’s State Hermitage Museum

Barcelona’s city council has refused to green-light a planning application for an outpost of Russia’s State Hermitage Museum. The council took issue with the site chosen for the project and the branch’s economic viability. Several expert reports commissioned by the council and published on January 27 cite the accessibility of the Nova Bocana section of the city’s port, its proximity to the sea, and traffic congestion in the area, as well as unanswered questions about the new institution’s staffing, projected visitor numbers, and admission prices, as reasons why the proposal wasn’t approved.

Remarking on the council’s decision, Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the Saint Petersburg institution told the Art Newspaper: “A few years ago, the Hermitage was asked to create a satellite center in Barcelona, similar to the Hermitage Amsterdam, Hermitage Kazan, and Hermitage Italy. Agreements were signed with the government of Catalonia and the city of Barcelona. The Hermitage had no further contacts with the Barcelona authorities and has none to this day. The Hermitage is ready to show its collections and share its experience of museum work around the world, but never forces it on anyone and is used to being treated politely.”

The museum and the Catalan government originally signed a letter of intent to build the outpost in 2012. In 2016, the Hermitage announced it was working with architect Íñigo Amézola on the 37,000-square-foot facility. However, last January, the Hermitage-Barcelona Foundation, which was established to oversee the project, and the State Hermitage Council reviewed a design for the new building by the Pritzker Prize–winning architect Toyo Ito. Since the Barcelona project is currently stalled, Catalan News reports that the Hermitage may have the option of opening the museum in the Spanish capital instead. Madrid’s city council told the media outlet that it will assess the suitability of the project in the coming weeks.