Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Repatriating Russian Art

My sister-in-law works in the art auction industry. She says that Russians dominate the auctions, and not just for things Russian:

After decades of Soviet communism and repression, wealthy Russian businessmen are taking advantage of their country's growing economy to make fine-art purchases. While Russian collectors are active on almost all art markets, items of their national heritage are the most popular.

``Prices for Russian art will increase,'' said Ivanov. ``In 1993, an Aivazovsky painting that sold for $40,000 today goes for $2 million to $3 million. We'll see Russian paintings sell for more than $10 million by the end of this year.'' He joins other collectors from Russia and the Ukraine who are also amassing big collections. Banking billionaire Petr Aven has one of the finest private collections of Russian modernist paintings and early Soviet-era porcelain; oil and mining billionaire Viktor Vekselberg bought the Forbes Faberge Collection in February 2004, and also owns Aurora Fine Art Investments, an art investment fund. Construction-industry executive Marina Mamontova has more than 250 artworks; food-processing magnate Alexander Tabalov owns more than 200 19th-century and early 20th-century paintings and mining billionaire Victor Pinchuk owns at least seven Damien Hirst works.

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