For Sale: Malevich by the Meter
Just as Russia’s avant-garde artists Kandinsky and Malevich broke with tradition in painting, Moscow’s architecture board is set to break with convention with the construction of a five tower "Avant-Garde" living complex by Dutch architect-of-the-moment Erick van Egeraat. The complex’s facades are borrowed fom well-known works by Kandinsky, Malevich, Rodchenko, Popova and Ekster.
With a total area of 55,000 square meters, the complex is set to include 118 one-, two- and three-level apartments ranging from 150-300 square meters, underground parking for 324 cars, and 5,000 square meters of office space. Another 5,000 square meters will house a modern art gallery, a gym, cafes, restaurants and shops. The developer, Capital Group, initially planned the building for a site next to the New Tretyakov gallery, but Mayor Luzhkov sent signals that they should look elsewhere.
The price tag for the project: $175 million. But with a Malevich canvas going for as much as $20 million at auction, an apartment in the Avant-Garde complex may be a steal.
The Gulf War made the U.S. military’s all-purpose Hummer vehicle famous throughout the world, and soon afterwards celebrity owners like Arnold Schwarzenegger were motoring around in the civilian version. Now General Motors has announced the next stage in the gas guzzling off-roader’s development: the Russian Hummer. At the end of June, GM executives, local politicians and an Orthodox priest attended a ceremony in Kaliningrad to launch production of the 8,600-pound off-road vehicle. GM said the factory would produce 200 Hummers by the end of 2004, increasing to 300 or 400 over the next three years. GM expects to find a market with Russia’s status-conscious elite: the cars will be sold in only five official GM dealerships in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, for between $86,000 and $94,000 – almost double the U.S. price. As for whether local taxi drivers will soon be bragging there are more Hummers on the streets of Moscow than in America, we’ll have to wait and see.
Russian Retail On the Rise
The plight of the world’s unhappiest billionaire notwithstanding, Russia’s image as a place to do business was given another boost at the end of June when it was rated the best place for expansion-minded U.S. retailers to invest. Management consulting firm A.T. Kearney’s annual ranking of retail investment attractiveness among 30 emerging markets placed Russia at the top of the list, ahead of rivals India and China. But the authors of the report urged investors to get a move on. "For international retailers interested in the Russian and Chinese market, the time to act is now," said co-author of the study, Fadi Farra.
By Appointment to His Majesty the President
Food shoppers in the UK are used to seeing the seal "By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen" on everything from jars of sauce to packets of Corn Flakes, usually alongside a splendid-looking coat of arms. Now Russian consumers are about to get their own version as the Department of Presidential Affairs prepares to launch a guarantee of food quality – to be signified by a double-headed eagle and the inscription, "Recommended for Use in the Kremlin." Factories interested in getting the presidential seal of approval will have to open their doors to a commission that will not only inspect hygiene and production standards on the factory floor, but which will also examine the books and check that all taxes have been paid. If that isn’t enough to scare off candidates, then the healthy cut the Kremlin is planning to take for the use of its seal just might.
The Russians Are Coming... to Scotland!
Aside from a shared patron saint and a taste for strong drink, parallels between Russia and Scotland may seem thin. That could all be changing, however, as Edinburgh suddenly becomes the place to be for Russia’s nouveau riche. Leaders of Scotland’s tourist industry have been caught off guard by a sudden influx of big-spending, whisky-loving, castle-visiting Russians. The five-star Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire recently reported 500 nights’ worth of Russian bookings in 2004, a considerable increase over their grand total of zero in 2003. Several top hotels have been hiring Russian staff to ease communication with their new guests, most of whom are unable to speak English – or at least penetrate the local accent. Transaero launched the first ever direct flights between Moscow and Edinburgh in June and the Russian invasion trend is expected to continue. What’s next? A new owner for the Glasgow Rangers?