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The Arts

A new private Art Museum opens in Moscow
He’s young. He’s rich. He is passionate about everything he does. Now Moscow can benefit from his immediate passion – which is art! He is Igor Markin, the man who has opened the first private Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow.
By Natalia Shuvalova
Photo by Eugeniya Ksenofontova

He is not shy to compare himself with Pavel Tretyakov, the founder of the Tretyakov Gallery. Obviously, he has some bragging rights. Tretyakov was almost the same age (through he had fewer paintings) when he organized the first exhibition at his house. Markin says; “I really love art and I love collecting paintings. Now I have more that 100 artists and more than 700 works in my collection…Tretyakov had less, even at the time of his death!”

Markin was not an upper-class or a highly educated kid. He was born into a poor Soviet family. His education had nothing to do with art: but he was educated as radio engineer. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, he went into business – the construction materials, which now virtually runs by itself and Igor’s involvement is only as a shareholder. He has the time and financial resources to devote to art.

Having money is a must in this field; especially now that many whole Russian artists are achieving world-wide reputations and the prices for many of their works are becoming really high. A painting by Krasnopevtsev recently sold for $1 million.

“It all started about 15 years ago. I remember I bought a new apartment at that time and didn’t like the blank walls. I bought two paintings: one by Zverev, the other by Yakovlev. Ten years later I realized that Zverev’s work was a fake but the graphic by Yakovlev is still there!” Markin admits.

“Modern art has no frame, no style. It is all about opening up to the new. This new could be so new, that we cannot see its beauty, and only years later we may exclaim: “How could we not notice this new Van Gogh?”

Fifteen years ago everything was different. “At that time almost no one took an interest in Russian art. It was only me and Vasya Tsereteli (now Executive Manager of the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and grandson of Zurab Tsereteli) who would buy these works.

At that time we could choose, think it over, wait…not to mention that the price was much lower,” Markin recalls.

Markin was far-sighted. Now his collection is truly unique, both in numbers and quality. It could be compared with the collection at the MMOMA (Moscow Museum of Modern Art), but that has been assembled over the past 100 years. Markin’s collection is post-war and contemporary.

“It does not matter what and how the great artist expresses his ideas! The great works of art resonance with something deep inside; stirs some vibration in our brain and generates a great feeling of admiration.”

His every remark on art, famous contemporary artists and his own preferences proves that he is not an amateur and knows what he wants. Choosing art he follows his taste, but he also remembers that there is a lot that he does not know. For the past fifteen years he has been meeting a great number of art critics, gallery owner, and the artists themselves. Communication with them has helped him to tell “good” from “bad”. Even now he always seeks ad- A new private Art Museum opens in Moscow He’s young. He’s rich. He is passionate about everything he does. Now Moscow can benefit from his immediate passion – which is art! He is Igor Markin, the man who has opened the first private Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow. photo by Eugeniya Ksenofontova By Natalia Shuvalova ART 20006 7 29 vice from people he trusts before purchasing an expensive work. He proudly shares the stories of his visits to Yankilevsky’s (one of the “shestidesyatniki” group of artists) tiny apartment in Paris. This group was branded by Khrushchev as “pederast-abstractionists” at the notorious exhibition at the Manezh in Moscow in 1962. Yankilevsky was lucky to be given a tiny apartment by the French government and left the USSR.

He travels everywhere; buying paintings every week: about 150 artworks a year. Last autumn he considered buying Western art as well. The reason is simple – his 13th painting by Krasnopevtsev (even though he is his favorite) would not make a great difference to his collection. “The high-quality collection should not be created just by personal preference. It should be balanced!” Markin insists.

And money is not a priority. After the first ten years of collecting, he is not sure that it will ever pay him back in investment value. He just liked what he bought. Even now, when he obviously can make money, he does not. He only buys, never sells and now exhibits. Otherwise he could have opened Markin Gallery. But opening a museum is another story. Referring to the question of whether he is afraid to fail with his project, he gives an honest answer: “Why should I worry? I do not pay rent, this building is mine and I bought it outright. As for art, I am not going to sell my paintings.”

Markin smiles at the thought of giving the museum to Moscow. He does not want it to become another place with gloomy “babushkas”, hard benches and unwelcoming rules. His museum will have videoprojections in the windows, computers in every hall, cushions to sit or lounge on, beverages and snacks, pencils, watercolors and paper for the kids to draw; everything one needs to enjoy the experience of art. He also promises a schedule of masterclasses, lectures and meetings with famous artists.

“There are about 20,000 artists in Russia. Only 100 are really good. Only 10 have world recognition.”
“Why contemporary art? The answer is banal – it is beautiful.”

Markin is a rebel, in a way. He does not like many things about the contemporary situation in the art business. Besides, he cannot stand the “pointless” texts on art; bulky, filled with technical and meaningless terms, and never expressing an idea. He decided to make a change. The opening text of his catalogue is very expressive, even impressive – all the copy is in slang with words that would require a “bleep” if read in public.

The present location of the museum in the city center has been a project for the past six or seven years. The plans for the future are grand; no less than Moscow’s “Guggenheim” and of course built by a world-renowned architect. Yet, there is still a slight chance that the museum might be handed over to the government – but that would create a “big threat” of Tsaritelli statues being installed…
WHEN: Grand Opening Celebration: May 31st,
opening to the public: June 1st, the first day of summer
WHERE: Khlynovsky Tupik, Dom #4

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