Alexandra Filippenko, Museeum contributing editor, PhD, research fellow at the Institute of American and Canadian Studies and a Moscow theatre employee from the age of 14. Typical “wings child” with both parents working in theatre and film: father – actor, mother – director. Art, history and food aficionado with special love for Italy, where all 3 are combined.
Your secret art venue when you seek peace and quiet
Every time I travel to St. Petersburg, I try to visit the Marble Palace – a low-key branch of the State Russian Museum, a quiet enclave amidst the tourist frenzy that actually deserves to be on all must-see lists. Here you can quietly admire engaging exhibitions and the permanent collection that includes works by Pablo Picasso, Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, Ilya Kabakov and many others. The palace was built for Count Grigory Orlov the most powerful Russian nobleman of the 1760s. Throughout XVIII-XIX centuries it was owned by the Royal Family. In 1880s a grandson of Russian Emperor, poet, translator and playwright Grand Duke Konstantin Romanov settled here with his family. After the 1917 Revolution, all the remaining Royals, including the ones, who lived in the Marble Palace, were sent to Alapayevsk (2500 km, 1550 miles from St. Petersburg), where in summer 1918 they were thrown into a mineshaft to die. Sadly during the Soviet rule the Palace became the Lenin museum and in order to get rid of the “bourgeois capitalist heritage”, interiors were basically destroyed. But fortunately the Palace outlived the Soviet regime and now we can admire this gem, dwell on the past seeing the mesmerizing decorations and look into the future due to inspiring contemporary art exhibitions.
The best food experience in an art space
When I travel I almost always dine only at museum cafes and I can name so many great places, but the best one must’ve been Getty Restaurant at the Getty Centre in Los Angeles. Of course the view is one of the reasons I loved the place (keep in mind that on weekends you should book ahead if you want to get a nice table by the window), but the food measured up to the scenery. Another reason to love this place is the service – very friendly and timely. Our only mistake was to go there before visiting the museum – we didn’t want to leave! If you don’t have much time, go for the café, situated right under the restaurant, you can enjoy the view and have a nice quick bite there.
A museum gift shop that you never leave empty handed
Museum gift shops are my favorite places to look for presents and it is very difficult to choose just one since I never leave a museum shop empty handed. So I’ll say a few words about a museum shop that amazed me. My beloved Italian museums very rarely have interesting museum shops, but things are starting to change. Last autumn I visited Rome, and in The MAXXI National Museum of the 21st Century Arts (Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo) I saw a 3D printer for sale! Of course I heard and read a lot about 3D printers, but I’ve never seen one in real life, ready to print whatever I want! It made me think that museum shops can be a place to find unique art books, beautiful stationary and souvenirs, but they can also be on the edge of design, technology, on the edge of all things new.
Your museum with a wow-factor
It might be a funny “wow-factor”, but I always hold my breath when I come near The Frick Collection in NYC. The museum is not that big and I know it so well, I remember where each painting is, yet every time I rush there when in New York. To me it is a family home, where I feel welcome and a place where I can admire the remarkable collection of Western paintings, sculpture and decorative pieces in a domestic setting, reminiscent of the noble XVIII-XIX European mansions. So when the museum announced its expansion plan, I took it seriously and personally. Although I liked the plan, I can see why hundreds of New Yorkers protested it and thousands signed the petition against the expansion. Its obvious I’m not the only one, who feels close to this family home – turned world-class museum.
Please share with us a special personal memory related to a museum experience
I love visiting museums early in the morning not in season. If you come to the door just 15 minutes before the opening time and you are one of the first ones in, you will see any museum in a different light. Call me crazy, but I do feel like paintings and sculptures get tired by the evening! One of the best museum memories is connected to that early-morning museum visit. A few years back my father and I arrived in NYC, the starting point of the US tour. We had a tiresome flight with a 3-hour layover, long line at immigration control, so when we got to the hotel we couldn’t stand the idea of sitting in a confined space and had a wonderful evening walk in Central Park and by the Museum Mile. The next morning we woke up around 7 am (thank you jetlag) and slowly walked towards The Metropolitan Museum of Art. At 9:30 we were by The Met that opens at 10. We decided to wait and we were so right! The doors were opened at 9:45 and we walked through the museum all alone. Egyptian wing, the Temple of Dendur, Sphinx and everything looked even more impressive, when we were the only ones there. Try early-morning museum visit sometime! In season or with certain museums it doesn’t always work, but it is absolutely worth getting up at 7 am!