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In tough times, new Hermitage Amsterdam offers gilded oasis

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The Hermitage has long collected works from Dutch Masters. Its collection includes the largest holding of paintings by Rembrandt Van Rijn outside the Netherlands.

Hermitage embraces the world

That common history helped draw the Hermitage to Amsterdam in the years following perestroika, or reform. Under director Mikhail Piotrovsky, the Hermitage expanded its presence abroad through collaborations and exhibits, and looked into the possibility of establishing satellites in the West.

"We have established relationships with many museums throughout the world. We've been all around the world, except in Antarctica," says Vladimir Matveev, director of exhibitions and development at the Hermitage.

The efforts include cooperation with other Russian museums worldwide, including the Guggenheim Hermitage in Las Vegas, which closed in 2008 after a seven-year run.

But the relationship with Amsterdam's Nieuwe Kerk stood out. Veen has been its director since the Nieuwe Kerk opened in 1981. In the early 1990s, he began working with the Hermitage on a series of exhibitions of the museum's collections.

By the time Veen was invited to propose a new purpose for the Amstelhof, in the latter part of the past decade, the Nieuwe Kerk and the Hermitage had forged a relationship that made the next step seem natural.

"We know them like we know our own family," Mr. Matveev says.

Veen invited Mr. Piotrovsky to see the complex.

"We were standing in the courtyard, and I said, 'Mikhail, what do you think about the idea to realize a satellite museum of the Hermitage?' " recalls Veen.

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