Basically it just says that the new Russian elite, fueled by massive fortunes made in the odd semi-totalitarian state of Vladimir Putin, are buying up every available piece of fine art – both old and contemporary – that they can get their hands on. Sotheby’s and Christies both are setting up Moscow bureaus to take advantage of this tiny percentage with the majority of the Russian dosh.
Collecting like this, to go along side such wealth, have not been seen in Russia since the days of the Czars. At that time it was also anything goes.
I can’t blame Russian people for wanting to get back their cultural heritage, especially when it was so abruptly taken from them, scattered to the winds and stomped with a jack boot whenever it tried to reveal itself in the ealry days of Comrade Lenin. I’ve always been a kind of a student of Russia – give nthat it’s in my blood – and the peculiar and difficult path it seems to have always charted for itself. Despite all that, the country has consistently contributed some of the very best literature, paintings, poetry, sculpture, photography, drama and dance the world has, even during the communist era. I also have to mention Russia’s contribution to chess, because I love the game and no country has added more to the game.
This competition that seems to have spring up, however, between Russians and themselves over who can acquire the most stunning array of art that can bridge the 100-year gap between the assasination of the Czar and Perestroika and “bring it back home to Russia” is a little discomfitting. No doubt some of it will end up in a museum on display, and some of it may even some day make it on tour to the rest of the world, but it’s more likely most of it will end up at country estates, houses in Moscow, and in homes that dot the hills and the country side of Europe and America. It’s what the Russian aristocracy did before the revolution. How else do you think so much of it became available to the world at large?