City Museums Prepare for Crowds of Night Owls

City Museums Prepare for Crowds of Night Owls

A unified ticket granting entry to all participating museums is a bargain at 300 rubles (10.70).

Published: May 18, 2011 (Issue # 1656)

Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

The Fontanny Dom courtyard, pictured above during last year’s event, will this year host an outdoor summer cafe.

Space is the central theme of this year’s Museum Night, an annual overnight treat for culture vultures in which dozens of local museums, exhibition halls and galleries stay open long after dark to welcome nocturnal visitors.

This year, from 6 p.m. on Saturday until 6 a.m. on Sunday, more than 60 local museums will greet guests at odd hours and treat them to special displays inspired by a cosmic theme and the 50th anniversary of Yury Gagarin’s historic achievement of becoming the first man in space.

Seventeen museums are taking part in the event for the first time this year, including the Loft Rizzoli Art Foundation, a new exhibition space located in the former premises of the Stepan Razin brewery at 49 Kurlyandskaya Ulitsa. The venue will host a festival of visual street art, fusing graffiti, video art, music, and light installations.

“The smell of kvas being brewed will spice up the atmosphere of the new venue,” joked Anton Gubankov, head of City Hall’s Culture Committee.

Museum Night is an international project with a scope of more than 2,000 museums and galleries in 42 European countries. The event arrived in St. Petersburg in 2008, and has become an annual happening.

“This year, we have decided to introduce a special theme to the whole event: The theme of space, in a universal sense,” Gubankov said. “We hope that this mysterious event will help to penetrate the soul of St. Petersburg and the essence of our city, which makes it so special.”

One of the most diverse and entertaining visual feasts will take place in the courtyard of the Fontanny Dom, located off Liteiny Prospekt.

Matthew Roach

A work on display at the city’s newly opened Loft Rizzoli Art Foundation.

“We will take the performance space literally above ground —there will be performances on balconies and in windows; videos will be projected onto the walls,” said Nina Popova, director of the Anna Akhmatova Museum in the Fontanny Dom. “We are setting up an outdoor summer cafe of the likes of the [legendary Silver Age establishment] Stray Dog Cafe.”

The suburban town of Gatchina is organizing its own Museum Night, with 12 venues involved in the all-night party.

The event is an excellent opportunity to see the austere castle, including its crumbling halls that are usually closed while the castle waits to be repaired, along with its chilly, eerie basements and legendary underground passage.

All participants of the excursion at Gatchina will be provided with a pocket torch.

The town of Peterhof is also opening three of its museums to late night visitors, including the Royal Bicycle Museum, the Playing Card Museum and the Benois Family Museum.

The industrial town of Vsevolozhsk will offer residents the chance to spend an evening at the Cat Museum.

Unlike the evening in Gatchina, that looks set to take a mysterious and otherworldly note, the Mitki artists will try to make the cosmic theme somewhat cozier. The iconic local art group’s headquarters will be decorated with Soviet-era television sets and VCR players showing recordings of Gagarin’s flight and the first samples of science fiction films inspired by space travel. Visitors will be offered the opportunity to join forces and paint their own painting together with the artists.

Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

Museum Night is popular, and culture lovers should be prepared to stand in line.

Every year, more and more locals leap at the chance to spend a night traveling between the city’s diverse collection of museums and galleries. In 2008, the project attracted around 24,000 people, while last year, more than 75,000 residents showed an interest.

To help intrepid museum-goers get around, 40 buses will be operating every 20 minutes between the venues.

There will be six different routes, all of which intersect outside St. Isaac’s Cathedral.

When planning routes between the venues, culture hunters should bear in mind two important things. One is that the bridges schedule remains unchanged, and the other is that the Museums Night buses will only start operating from 11 p.m., as other public transport stops for the night.

A unified ticket granting the right to enter all participating museums is a bargain at 300 rubles ($10.70). Tickets can be purchased at every venue.

In light of previous years’ experience, the Culture Committee’s Gubankov warned that crowds and time lost in waiting would be an inevitable part of the evening.

Last year, the event attracted more than 64,000 participants. As a result, many of the venues were overcrowded, and there were lines for both the buses and the museums.

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