Paint by numbers: priciest Russian art
The billionaire Roman Abramovich and his partner, Dasha Zhukova, have paid tens of millions of dollars for a major group of works by Ilya Kabakov, the priciest living Russian artist.
While the amount paid for the group last year has not been disclosed, the asking price for the works ranged up to US$60 million (Dh220.3m), according to observers familiar with private art sales.
The group consists of about 40 paintings as well as important early albums and installations. Most of the works were made by Kabakov before he left Moscow in 1987. The artist was a founder of Moscow's conceptualist-art movement.
"It's one of the largest Kabakov collections in the world," says Emilia Kabakov, the artist's wife and collaborator since 1989, who confirmed the sale. "It's also the most outstanding in terms of quality and art-historical significance."
The seller was the American collector John Stewart, who spent two decades assembling the group.
"We knew the collection was on the market and we were concerned that it would be sold piece by piece at auction," said Mrs Kabakov. "Now it's saved. It has a future as a collection."
Mr Abramovich is the owner of Chelsea Football Club and his net worth is estimated at $14.7 billion.
Kabakov, 79, has held the title of Russia's most expensive living artist since 2008, when his 1982 painting Beetle sold for £2.9 million (Dh16.7m) at Phillips de Pury in London, now known as Phillips.
"John Stewart's collection has several masterpieces which, were they ever to appear at auction, could have brought the same value as Beetle," says Natalia Kolodzei, the executive director of the US-based Kolodzei Art Foundation, which promotes 20th-century Russian art.
Mr Abramovich and Ms Zhukova have been the Kabakovs' patrons for years. In 2008, Mr Zhukova's Garage Center for Contemporary Culture its first Kabakov retrospective in Moscow.
* Bloomberg News
Published: January 31, 2013 04:00 AM