The Art Newspaper Russia: Andrey Filatov, collector, investor in transport infrastructure

You have your own collection of Russian and Soviet art, and you have privately supported projects in the art sphere for quite some time. Why did you create the Filatov Family Art Fund?

As regards the “artistic” side of the question, I have various criteria for choosing works of art for my personal collection and for the fund’s collection. I buy what I like for my personal collection. That can include works by contemporary artists or pieces by artists and sculptors that date prior to 1917. The fund has a different task: to acquire and display iconic things from a particular historical period – from 1917 to 1991 – when the Soviet Union existed. We plan to acquire 12–15 works of art a year. These are pieces created in the USSR, including those created by artists who subsequently moved to the West. No matter where they worked, the October Revolution and life in the Soviet Union continued to influence their creativity. With the help of the fund, I’m trying to exhibit the art of an entire epoch, which the world had previously either not seen or not been fully aware of. A huge number of masterpieces left the country, were bought by collectors, and were not made available to society. I thought it would be right for the fund to acquire this artwork and show it to the whole world.

As for the “organizational” side of the question, in order to accomplish the goals set for the fund, a legal entity is necessary. There are several museums that don’t work with private individuals, and the existence of a Filatov Family Art Fund simplifies our relations.

Why does the fund focus on artists from the Soviet period?

I would say that the main motive that drives me is my love for the lost Motherland. I was a young man; I lived in the Soviet Union, in a country that disappeared, disintegrated. I remember the cultural environment I grew up in. I liked it. It was my homeland, which is dear to me.

The Soviet epoch ended, the Soviet Union disappeared. That country’s art has also passed into history, and in the future, won’t it only interest art historians as a localized phenomenon?

I see the situation differently. The October Revolution and the events of 1917 continue to influence the whole world. It was an explosion of energy caused by various factors – social injustice, pent-up demand for social and political changes. The left-wing ideology hasn’t gone anywhere. Leftist aesthetics, largely generated by the Russian Revolution, are gaining force throughout the world. This isn’t a local phenomenon, but a global one. The Communist Party of China, for example, still manages its country with sufficient effectiveness and success. For example, we don’t know how Soviet power influenced Marc Chagall’s creativity. They might call him a great French artist, but the influence of the Soviet period on his creativity is enormous. The USSR had too great an impact on the world – not only a political and ideological impact, but also in the cultural sense, and such power does not disappear without a trace.

How does the fund work? Is it expensive to operate?

We don’t usually disclose the fund’s financial performance or budget. We have a strategy; we outline certain important events and purchases of artwork. But I am an entrepreneur, after all, and I make sure that this project stays within its scheduled financial and budget boundaries. If there are deviations, they are minimal.

What is in the fund’s collection?

Since the fund was founded in 2012, we’ve acquired Vladimir Serov’s “Lenin Proclaims Soviet Power,” Mai Dantsig’s “And the World Remembers the Saviors,” Fedot Sychkov’s “At the Market,” Nicolai Fechin’s “Taos Girl with Sunflowers,” Fedor Reshetnikov’s “Low Marks Again,” and artwork by Yuri Kugach and Alexander Gerasimov. After each purchase, we publish a press release that talks about the new arrival. In such a way, we acquaint the public with this artwork, and in addition to that, we inform museums about our collection. If museums want any of the fund’s artwork for an exhibit, we’re happy to cooperate with them. Eventually, the fund will organize its own exhibits. We have something to show – we’ve made serious, very interesting, even unexpected acquisitions.

You’re a chess player by training, and in 2012 you initiated and sponsored the FIDE World Chess Championship match at the Tretyakov Gallery. Why play chess at a museum?

The basic idea behind holding international chess tournaments at museums is Russian and Soviet art propaganda, and chess is a unique instrument of that propaganda. When the world chess championship took place at the Tretyakov Gallery, a huge number of people around the world learned of the museum’s existence. By the way, the symbol of the match was Viktor Popkov’s piece “The Brigade at Rest,” which shows workers playing chess. During the broadcast of the match, instead of advertisements, stories were told about our great artists. The world champion, Mr. Anand, had a million viewers in India who followed the match, while simultaneously learning about our great art.

The program “Chess at Museums” is gaining momentum, and not just in Russia. Recently I shared my experience organizing chess matches at museums with British chess players who are considering holding their own national championship at a British museum next year. Similar tournaments are already being held in Bishkek. During the memorial to Alekhine, half of the tournament took place at the Louvre, and half in the Russian Museum. Even the most famous museums are in need of popularizing and advertising, and after these chess matches were broadcast, millions of people who are more interested in chess than art learned about the Tretyakov Gallery, about the Russian Museum, and about the Louvre. My partner Gennady Timchenko is currently doing a similar event at a museum in Nizhny Novgorod. We’re hoping to have children’s competitions at city and municipal museums, as well.

What international projects is the fund currently planning?

I really love the work of Viktor Popkov and Nicolai Fechin, and I decided to start independent projects for them at the fund to present their creativity. A famous collector said it well – that Popkov is the Dostoevsky of Russian art. And Fechin, of course, is a very great impressionist and portraitist in Russian art. What unites these artists is that they are famous in certain countries, but not throughout the world. Viktor Popkov is our only artist to have received an honorary diploma at the Biennale de Paris for young artists. Nicolai Fechin is the only artist of Russian origin who received the Thomas R. Proctor Prize for portraiture at the U.S. National Academy of Design’s exhibition in 1924. By the way, Fechin is also popular in America today.

I supported the Fechin exhibit, which was shown at the Tretyakov Gallery. We’re planning a Fechin exhibit in France, and now we’re preparing to release a publication in French dedicated to this master. Negotiations are under way on organizing an exhibit of Popkov works, which will be shown in two countries (one of them probably being the UK). Last year we published an excellent monograph dedicated to Popkov, which included his work from state museums and private collections, and recently the publication was published in English. In the UK there is a lot of interest in Popkov’s creativity. For many he is a real discovery.

What does your cooperation with the Louvre consist of?

The Louvre’s management and its specialists arrived at the conclusion that it needs to develop its own collection of Russian art, since the world’s greatest museum currently only has a collection of old Russian icons. The Louvre created a Russian art foundation that anyone can donate to in order to support this undertaking. My partner Gennady Timchenko and I have made our initial donations. We hope others will join us and that this will allow the Louvre’s experts to find pieces by Russian artists to flesh out the exposition. The Louvre thinks it highly important to introduce France to Russian creativity, especially after its enormous success with the “Holy Russia” exhibit. So there are solid opportunities to present Russian and Soviet art abroad.

Inna Pulikova

The Art Newspaper Russia

#18, November 2013