Have you ever wondered what it might be like to combine culture and learning with a night on the tiles, with that added thrill of being somewhere you shouldn’t be after hours? Admittedly, the thought hadn’t exactly crossed my mind before last Saturday; however, after experiencing Moscow’s Night of Museums, your run of the mill, history-free evening out just seems oh-so-passé.
Night of Museums is a cultural event which began in Berlin in 1997 and has spread to cities around the world. It sees museums and cultural centres opening until the early hours of the morning and offering universal free admission. Museums, galleries and the metro had been plastered with posters advertising ‘Noch’ Museev’ for weeks before; nonetheless, I was dubious (not least because, for some time, I couldn’t really be bothered to read them and thought that they were referring to a dodgy sequel of the film). This is Russia, hardly known for its thriving arty, bohemian community. I just couldn’t imagine who would turn out: old women, desperate to admire some more of their motherland’s art work? Students, obsessed with all things non-Russian and eager to be part of an international initiative? Drunks looking for an alternative to the metro to hang out? Nonetheless, despite my doubts, I decided to give it a go: after all, what student can turn down free entry?
The evening began as any cultural extravaganza ought: with G+T’s. Then it was on to the Multimedia Art Museum and its incredible exhibition of Ai Weiwei’s New York photography, a midnight stroll around the historical centre and being side-tracked once or twice by margaritas. The night ended with outdoor performances in the balmy, thronging Gorkii Park. I don’t know whether it was the unseasonable warmth, the excitement of the crowds or the magic of Moscow by night, but the evening was truly beautiful. And, incidentally, my concerns as to the characters the event might attract turned out to be completely unfounded: I’ve never seen the streets of Moscow so alive with young people, couples, families, all out for some cultural fun.
I truly hope that Night of Museums is a cultural phenomenon which takes off and continues to flourish. Even after nine months spent ticking off a to-do list of Moscow’s museums before re- touring them thrice over with guests, it was the perfect way to enjoy Moscow, lending the city a fresh, exciting and innovative dimension. All-in-all, a night very well spent.