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I began collecting paintings relatively recently, back at the start of 2000, when I got to know Anatoly Beckerman, the well-known dealer and collector, whilst in New York. As the leading expert on Russian art of the first half of the 20th century, Anatoly played a key role in the development of my tastes. The first paintings to be acquired for the collection were by the greatest Russian émigré artists, including B. Grigoriev, A. Yakovlev, N. Roerich, A. Exter, N. Goncharova and B. Anisfeld.
However, the concept for choosing the works and the main theme of the collection did not appear immediately. Following the conventions for periodising and classifying art into schools and movements, the years 1910-20 and 1960-70 are the two periods in Russian fine art of the 20th century which are of particular interest. They represent the appearance of the Russian avant-garde and the ‘second’ Russian avant-garde (the so-called ‘non-conformism’) respectively, disconnected by several decades of well-documented history. As such, the collection has been built not around individual schools and artists; rather it focuses on periods in art which form a focal point for any serious collection. The ‘second Russian avant-garde’ offers, in my view, the best opportunity to acquire first-rate works. The market valuation for artists from this period do not as yet compare with Russian artists from the start of the 20th century which currently command significantly higher prices. In addition, the market for non-conformist artists has the potential to be far greater in size. In actual fact, most of the best works from this period did not end up in the Russian state museums but were taken out of Russia by Western diplomats, journalists and collectors during the 1960’s and 1970’s and found their way into the hands of private collectors. The increase in demand and prices for these works over the past five to six years has also led to an increase in supply as more of the artists’ works have come to market, either at the leading auction houses or in private galleries. The growth of the market for the ‘second Russian avant-garde’ can to a large extent be attributed to the London auction house, MacDougall’s, founded relatively recently. It has held a series of successful auctions of Russian artists from the post-war period.
The collection began to expand significantly from 2005 onwards. One obvious counter-effect of pursuing a strategy of rapid growth under conditions of intensifying competition for assets, when applied both in business and in the art market, is that it can become ever more costly. As a result of such competition amongst buyers at the open auctions, I exceeded the world record for the price paid for the best works by artists such as O. Rabin, O. Tselkov, M. Shvartsman, E. Steinberg, E. Rukhin, B. Vassilev and a number of others whose work I wanted to incorporate into the collection. There are no regrets about this for, in my view, Russian artists of this period are as yet not overpriced.
The collection is located in the three countries where our family resides and is being presented for the first time in full on this website. Individual paintings are often on display at exhibitions organised by The Tretyakov State Gallery, The State Russian Museum and other museums and organisations outside Russia which are active in the promotion of Russian art. The collection is, of course, in no way complete and new works, and occasionally new artists, are continually being added. I expect that several new names will also appear very shortly which have only become known in the past ten to fifteen years and will cover not just painting but also other forms of artist expression.