RUSSIAN ART COLLECTOR
Varoli reports on Bloomberg that Leonid Mikhelson is sponsoring a display of 30 works by 20th-century Russian master artist Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, many of which are well known to the public.
Billionaire Leonid Mikhelson’s company OAO Novatek is sponsoring Russia’s first exhibition of a state museum’s works by a private gallery, with a display of 30 masterpieces by the 20th-century master Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin.
Russia’s second-biggest gas producer is making history 534 miles southeast of Moscow at the Victoria Gallery in the Volga city of Samara. Patronage is aiding Russian culture despite the decline in economic growth, stocks and the ruble.
Some of the paintings, known to many Russians since childhood, show a Bolshevik leader dying on the battlefield and a peasant riding a red horse which sails off into the sky.
“Novatek doesn’t abandon friends in hard times,” Vladimir Smirnov, Novatek’s vice-chairman, said in an interview. “We will continue to finance exhibitions at leading Russian museums.” The pieces are on loan from St. Petersburg’s State Russian Museum.
Novatek’s is also financing the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in June 2009.
The company is the main sponsor and has pledged 300,000 euros ($385,700). Mastercard Worldwide is another leading sponsor of the pavilion, while the Russian government pays about 10 percent of the costs.
“Without Novatek’s support, it wouldn’t have been possible to pull this off,” said Olga Sviblova, chairwoman of the Russian Pavilion. “Most Russian companies prefer to support classical art, not contemporary art.”
Novatek Chief Executive Officer Mikhelson is a collector of Russian fine art. While he declined to comment about his collection, art dealers say he prefers 19th-century and early 20th-century Russian art.
Born in a town on the Caspian Sea in Russia’s republic of Dagestan, Mikhelson graduated in 1977 from Samara’s Civil Engineering Institute. Before helping to create Novatek in 1994, he spent most of his career building gas pipelines.
In April 2008, Forbes estimated Mikhelson’s fortune at $5.9 billion, and ranked him as Russia’s 27th richest person.
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