Billionaire Usmanov to present Rostropovich collection to Russia
( RIA Novosti ) - Kremlin-friendly tycoon Alisher Usmanov, who bought Monday the art collection of deceased cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, said Tuesday he will present it to the state in full.
"The entire collection will be transferred to the state in full. It belongs to Russia and to the Russian people," Usmanov said in a statement late on Tuesday.
The billionaire's statement followed a number of doubts as to whether Russia would receive the collection. Marina Loshak, of the Proun Gallery in Moscow, and advisor to Sotheby's Russia and CIS office chief on the collection, said earlier in the day that the collection would definitely remain with Usmanov, and that "there is no talk of it being presented to the state."
The collection was built up by Rostropovich, who died in April, and his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, after they were forced out of Russia in 1974. It was intended to create a "Russian atmosphere" in their homes abroad.
The collection was due to be sold Tuesday-Wednesday, but Sotheby's cancelled the auction on Monday after it had been "acquired privately in its entirety."
Usmanov, who co-owns major steel factories as well as heading a subsidiary of the state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, told the Kommersant daily his mission was to preserve the unique collection of Russian art in its entirety and return it to its home country.
"My aim was to return the large collection of Russian art to Russia. This helped persuade Sotheby's to sell it in full... I am by no means going to keep the collection in my possession. Museums will decide its fate," Usmanov told the paper.
Experts said a museum to exhibit the collection, which comprises paintings by Nikolai Roerich, Valentin Serov, Ilya Repin and Karl Bryullov, was being chosen at the moment. They suggested it could be split into porcelain, which could be displayed in the Kremlin museum, and paintings and sculptures to go to museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The collection has been estimated as being worth about $40 million,
The Russian billionaire also increased his stake in Arsenal soccer club to 21% Tuesday, becoming its second largest shareholder. In August, he acquired 14.65% in the English Premier League club.