In June 2009, an outpost of St Petersburg's Hermitage museum opened in Amsterdam with a star-studded, 30-hour ceremony, attended by Queen Beatrix and Russian president Dmitri Medvedev.
Set in a former 19th-century hospital complete with 17th-century courtyard, the building
has two vast exhibition spaces, a concert hall and a restaurant.
The museum promises to mount two exhibitions a year, borrowing items from the three million-strong collection of its prestigious Russian parent.
The Hermitage's riches owe much to the collecting obsession of Peter the Great (1672-1725), who came to Amsterdam to learn shipbuilding and the art of building on waterlogged ground - the latter knowledge he applied to his pet project, St Petersburg. Peter befriended local doctor Frederik Ruysch, perhaps the greatest ever anatomist and preserver of body parts and mutants in jars. Ruysch enjoyed constructing ghoulish collages with gall and kidney stones piled up into landscapes; dried veins woven into lush shrubberies and testicles crafted into pottery.
The scenes were animated with dancing foetus skeletons. After kissing the head of a preserved baby, Peter paid Ruysch 30,000 florins for the lot (much of it is still on display in St Petersburg's Kunstkammer collection). With any luck, some of Peter's prized souvenirs - including Rembrandts - will return for a visit.
The opening exhibition, 'In the Russian Court', features 1800 objects spanning the 19th century, with future shows to include 'The Roots of Modern Art: Braque, Matisse and Picasso' (spring to autumn 2010) and 'Alexander the Great and the Way East'
(from autumn 2010).