Art of Memories

Curating at the Hermitage

Vincent Antonin Lépinay

Columbia University Press

Art of Memories

Pub Date: May 2019

ISBN: 9780231191890

288 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: May 2019

ISBN: 9780231191883

288 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£74.00

Pub Date: May 2019

ISBN: 9780231549561

288 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£25.00

Art of Memories

Curating at the Hermitage

Vincent Antonin Lépinay

Columbia University Press

Once the home of Catherine the Great’s private art collection, Russia’s State Hermitage Museum became the largest museum in the Soviet Union and, since the collapse of the USSR, one of the most active museums in the world. The Hermitage is a global model for the collection and preservation of fine art, deeply shaped by its need to protect itself and its holdings from the world beyond its gates. In Art of Memories, Vincent Antonin Lépinay documents the Hermitage’s curatorial practices in an innovative consideration of the museum as a cultural laboratory.

Lépinay analyzes the tensions between the museum as a space of exploration of the collections and as a culture heavily invested in self-protection from the outside world. During a time when traveling abroad was rare, a generation of art historians produced a culture of confined scholarship premised on their proximity to the holdings of a museum enclave. As the Hermitage has become increasingly present on the world museum scene, its culture of secrecy and orality has endured. Lépinay analyzes the ethos of Hermitage curators and scholars over the transition from Soviet to post-Soviet museum cultures, considering the mobility of art, documentation of the collection, and the transformation of expertise. Based on Lépinay’s extraordinary access to the Hermitage and the scholars who work there, Art of Memories opens the door of one of the world’s great museums to reveal how art history is made. It is an essential study for readers interested in the role that outside forces play in culture, organizations, and the production of knowledge.
Lépinay's ethnographic knowledge of how the staff of St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum tends its collections supports a brilliant, theoretically sophisticated analysis of the way curators maintain the meaning and historical importance of art works. Must reading if you want to understand the social processes that shape our experience of art. Howard S. Becker, author of Art Worlds
In this beautifully written, superbly researched, and theoretically rich book, Lépinay changes the way you will see museums in general and the Hermitage in particular. His account of the worlds of the museum—knit together through objects, people, and documents—illumines the set of complex trajectories and careers that characterize the museum. Geoffrey C. Bowker, Donald Bren Professor in Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Irvine
This multiperspectival study—directing its analytic arsenal at the sociological, anthropological, and historical components of the Hermitage—is admirable in its refreshing examination of a museum’s infrastructure. Art of Memories is full of wit and intellectual surprises. Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, author of The Hand of the Engraver: Albert Flocon Meets Gaston Bachelard
As he did so brilliantly for the back office of a bank in Codes of Finance, here Vincent Lépinay goes behind the galleries of one of the world’s greatest museums to discover its infrastructures of knowledge. He shows how, across the tsarist, Soviet, and post-Soviet eras and with various technologies of memory, the Hermitage collected and protected persons and things, curators and collections. In Art of Memories, the museum is a place of exploration, a space of science, and a cultural laboratory. David Stark, author of The Sense of Dissonance: Accounts of Worth in Economic Life
Preface: Experimenting with the Hermitage
Introduction: The Hermitage, a Cultural Laboratory
1. Moving Objects
Interlude 1: Art History and the Hermitage Before World War II
2. Documenting the Museum
3. Art History from the Collections Up
Interlude 2: Mobility at the Hermitage
4. The Nostalgic Modesty of Hermitage Restorers
5. Guides: Taking Science Down the Galleries
6. Spaces and Surprises: Technologies of Vision for a Long Winter
Conclusion: Secreting Memories
Acknowledgments
Notes
References
Index

About the Author

Vincent Antonin Lépinay is associate professor in the Department of Sociology and the Médialab at Sciences Po Paris. He is the author of Codes of Finance: Engineering Derivatives in a Global Bank (2011) as well as coauthor with Bruno Latour of The Science of Passionate Interests: An Introduction to Gabriel Tarde’s Economic Anthropology (2009) and with Mario Biagioli of From Russia with Code: Programming Migrations in Post-Soviet Times (2019).