On the eve of International Museum Day, celebrated by Europe in mid-May, the Belarusian Culture Ministry has proudly announced that, over the last four years, the number of visitors to Belarusian museums has risen 1.5 times — to reach 4m a year. Four years ago, most of Minsk’s largest museums followed the example of the National Art Museum in organising the Museum Night.
Last year, in that single night, the number of visitors was so great that annual targets were exceeded. This time, Minsk museum staff were predicting similar support. Entry was free until almost midnight, with special events laid on. For example, the Yakub Kolas State Literary and Memorial Museum allowed guests to sit in Kolas’ own Pobeda car for taking photos. Moreover, manuscripts of his famous poem New Land (in all European languages) were on display for the first time. While music addicts were enjoying classical arias, performed by Belarusian Opera soloists inside the museum, fans of Kolas joined a night excursion led by guides, visiting Kolas’ home in Minsk.
The Yanka Kupala Literary Museum presented the most avant-garde young Belarusian poets and musicians, while the State Museum of Belarusian Literary History invited actors to take us on a journey through the centuries. The Museum of Folk Architecture and Everyday Life in Strochitsy (near Minsk) held master-classes on traditional games and dances — with folk DJs. Meanwhile, the Museum of Theatre and Musical Culture put on puppet shows and world classics performed by Conservatoire students. The Museum of Belarusian Cinema History caused a stir with its screenings of retro cinema masterpieces…
Traditionally, the National Art Museum and the Museum of History and Culture of Belarus have the most intensive programmes. The latter (situated in Karl Marx Street) organised a club party — featuring hip-hop and break-dance. It transformed the twilight into a dance hall from the early 20th century, followed by a 19th century ball and ancient dances from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania era.
The National Art Museum was keen on Eastern culture, offering insight into calligraphy, origami and sand drawing on glass. However, the major event of the evening was the opening of three exhibitions — showing replicas of ancient Egyptian sculptures, photos by Japanese master Yahagi Kidzyuro and works by Belarusian photographer Vadim Kachan. Guests arriving in red and gold (the traditional colours of the East) were given free entry.
Next month, the Museum of History and Culture of Belarus is to exhibit the most precious of Smolensk’s Museum-Reserve treasures (taken to Germany during the war). These include ancient pictures, gold, silver and Slutsk sashes. A collection of South-Korean arts — donated by the National Museum of Korea — will soon expand the permanent exhibition at the National Art Museum. In a year, a long-awaited exhibition by Boris Zaborov and French impressionists will take place.
Louvre Director General Henri Loyrette plans to visit Minsk soon, hoping to arrange a display in Paris of Ivan Khrutsky’s work, alongside ancient Belarusian icons.