Russian Art

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Russian Art

Jeremy Noble Gallery

I have been collecting, and buying and selling, Soviet and Russian art for more than twenty years. I bought my first painting in 1984 when I first came to the USSR as a student from Cambridge. It was the work of a contemporary artist whom I met in Moscow; he was then almost unknown but he is now very popular. The art world in Soviet Russia was split into two groups - the 'official' artists whose work was exhibited in state galleries, and the 'anti-establishment' artists who had very little opportunity either to exhibit or to sell their work.

In the 'New' Russia, however, the work of the 'Refuseniks' is now what everybody wants to buy, and the old 'official' artists are thought of as no good. I do not share this view; good art is good no matter what the critics might say. The art business is about fashion, and what goes around comes around. A new gallery has just opened around the corner from where I live in St Petersburg, selling 'Soviet' art, not Russian art.

When I first arrived in Russia I would regularly wander around antique and commission shops, in Moscow and St Petersburg, looking for Russian art, but often picking up all sorts of things (furniture, Faberge, photographs). I bought only what I liked, not for investment. Before the arrival of Glasnost in the late 1980s it was possible to buy first-class pictures for very little money, and it was not until the sales at Sotheby's in London in the mid 1990s that prices started to increase. It really was possible to find an Aivazovsky, and once a drawing by Malevich.

I have bought the works of a wide variety of artists working in Russia before the Revolution, many of whom worked in the Russian theatre - this reflects my own interest in Russian ballet and opera. I like also the works of the artists who were working during the period known as the Russian Avant-Garde — Altman, Tatlin, Mashkov and many others still little known outside of Russia. This period of uncensored creativity came to an abrupt end around about 1932 when Stalin began his repression of all 'formalist' art.

In the last ten years I have been collecting the works of contemporary artists, many of them from St Petersburg, and particularly the artists grouped around the late Timur Novikov, whose works I first saw when I was the Arts Editor for the St Petersburg Times. Increasingly, Russian contemporary art is becoming popular not only in Russia itself, but also abroad.

My hobby soon became something of a business, primarily because I was in the right place at the right time. I have a gallery in St Petersburg, and I work closely with the gallery Atelier No. 2 in Moscow. I sell only the pictures that I like myself, and about which I am certain that I know the provenance. Visitors to St Petersburg are always welcome to visit the gallery.

Igor Baskakov

Nikolai Leontiev

Evgenii Magomedov

Adam Knapik

© 2005 Jeremy Noble