Two years ago by the unprecedented exhibition of Bruegel in your Museum has become a magnet for tourists from around the world, it was visited by over 400 thousand visitors, among them many Russians. Now seems fantastic that so many people could easily enjoy the masterpieces without thinking about sanitizer and distance. The slogan “once in a lifetime”, which was held retrospective in light of the “new reality” sounds sad. Will there be another in our lifetime a possible cultural event of this magnitude?

Sabine Haag: That show really was a unique opportunity that comes once in a lifetime, to see so many works by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. In this sense, it remains an unsurpassed example to which we can aspire international exhibition projects. Another thing is that because of the crisis in the fashion industry, the whole world has entered a period of uncertainty, which is reflected in the work of museums, planning, budgets and exhibitions. Transport of exhibits, their insurance will inevitably become more expensive.

it is Also unclear how the situation will develop with the virus, when fully open border and restored international tourism. But our art collection has been and remains the universal house, and not just purely Viennese or Austrian institution. And we hope, at least once a year to hold one big international exhibition, the international audience. We are very important guests from Russia, it is always a welcome audience in our Museum. The Russians brought with them a deep understanding of history showed a genuine interest, not only of the undisputed hits in the main building on the square of Maria Theresa. Tourists from Russia accounted for about nine percent of the visitors to the Vienna Treasury (one of the funds of the Museum of fine arts, which contains the values of the dynasty Gabsburgov. – Approx. “RG”), is significantly more than from other countries. I hope as soon as this becomes possible, the Russians will once again come to Vienna, come to our Museum and will be able to see the big exhibition “Titian and images of women”, which is scheduled for fall 2021. By the way, we hope to present her exhibits from Russian collections. We already have experience of successful cooperation with your museums. Two years ago, the Museum of fine arts and the State Hermitage Museum held a joint exhibition (“Imperial capital: St. Petersburg – Vienna.

Masterpieces of Museum collections”. – Approx. “RG”), which was held alternately in the two cities. On opening a vein arrived the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, in St. Petersburg- the Federal Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz. I have no doubt that these formats will remain the same and the trip to the Museum and will continue to be an important incentive to travel the city�� world to buy tickets to Vienna, to St. Petersburg, in Moscow… Although I must admit that now the situation is very dramatic. In this Museum, observed fifteen or twenty percent of the normal number of visitors. I talked with colleagues from Germany, they tell the same story. As far as I know, no matter with the attendance and American museums. And not only in temporary travel restrictions: in principle, people become more cautious.

In your Museum already resumed classes for children, quests in the Egyptian hall for teenagers and even trips to celebrate the announcement of the “Kissing allowed” on the website very motivating. And even before the outbreak of the Vienna Museum has developed formats for the visually impaired, hard of hearing, visitors with the peculiarities of perception and even dementia. What became of these projects?

Sabine Haag: the Desire to create an accessible, barrier-free environment which will enable all without exception to join the art, remains one of our top priorities. For ten years specialists of the Museum are actively working in this direction. And they approached me with the request to allow to continue to conduct tours for people with disabilities. They now have especially easy. Many can’t get to the Museum without an escort. In their everyday life already have enough restrictions and we don’t want to cause them further within these walls. Therefore, our doors are open, of course, with extreme prejudice.

Even your famous Theseus overcoming the centaur (the sculptural composition of Antonio Canova, who greets guests on the front stairs. – Approx. “RG”), wore a mask – showed solidarity with visitors!

Sabine Haag (laughs): Yes! Joke with Theseus was born, when the wearing of masks in public places, including the one opened after quarantine museums, was still required. Now visitors can choose. If they still feel they are more protected, we only. By the way, in our store there are masks with designer prints on the motives of Canova, Raphael, velázquez. We wanted to translate all these sanitary measures in the game, a little humorous, and give our guests the feeling that going to the Museum is completely safe.

This is a very pleasant pastime, which gives food to the mind and heart. To organize a non-contact manner – from buying a ticket on the website to booking excursions online. And only our staff will see to it that in front of the paintings avoid any “congestion”. Indoors a comfortable temperature is maintained, there is good in any weather – and in the heat, cold and rain. Museums remain the best guides a person through all seasons. There are different ways dostacbe to the public, including through digital content. But it will never replace needs in the living touch of the art.

Quarantined spawned unexpected fun: people began to play from a handy means of subjects of the paintings change into their characters and share photo in social networks. You know this firsthand, as he entered the jury of the Austrian TV with the slogan “Thou art”. Maybe you’ve heard of the group “Isotrace”, which was born spontaneously among Russian-speaking users of Facebook. It has over half a million members, and every day there are new impersonations and parodies. How can we explain this phenomenon?

Sabine Haag: This is an absolutely wonderful experience, which has become “viral” and took so many people. Their creativity burst forth through the barriers of isolation. And if you say that Russia has increased its own motion, it is just fantastic! This confirms that we are not dealing with some local initiative, limited by national borders, but a global phenomenon. The idea of the Getty Museum in California, and she is scattered throughout the world. Even those who by profession is far from art area, happy began to play art – play with images, with roles on sex, age, materials and forms.

And showed incredible creativity and wit. During the lockdown people were cut off from direct contemplation of the painting. But it became clear that the need for it is as strong as ever. And that art defines our everyday life, inspires and is able to resonate in each. The Austrians who participated in the competition, often inspired by the works of the old masters as an ideal, as a starting point. Among the favorite motifs were Bruegel, Rubens, including his “Head of Medusa”, which hangs in our Museum, portraits by Renaissance artists. There are also variations on the theme of contemporary art, and impressionist. But it’s not easy to recreate! I was impressed to see how talented and precise you get these alterations.

the Russians often beat the “Girl with a pearl earring” by Vermeer, and in the top of the most popular themes included scenes from Bosch…

Sabine Haag: I can understand that! Bosch – painter of the late middle Ages, which stands on the threshold of a New time. It embodies the images and visions that reflect a range of feelings, nightmares, fears, violence, love. Of course, I would not say that we live every day by Bosch. And yet he comes to such matters, which speak to us. Well, “Girl with a pearl earring” remains one of the finest works of world art. The choice of the Russians seems to me is very exciting.

In recent weeks, miR discussed the decision of Turkey to turn Hagia Sophia from Museum to mosque. You are the head of the Austrian Commission of UNESCO. Do you have the organization tools that will allow us to check the safety of the monument’s architecture and its interiors in its current form?

Sabine Haag: In relation to the Hagia Sophia, which is included in the list of world heritage of UNESCO, the decision was made quite rapidly and without consultation with the organization and with the international community. Of course, I look at it with alarm. It is very important to guarantee the safety of all elements that belong to the Christian period of the Hagia Sophia, so they were not dismantled or damaged. And to this facility was provided with free access. In my opinion, Hagia Sophia should preserve itself as a monument of history which have passed through various stages in his lifetime.