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18 Sep, 2007 14:53

Rostropovich’s art collection to belong to Russia

A Russian billionaire has bought the entire private art collection of the late musician Mstislav Rostoprovich and his wife, famous soprano Galina Vishnevskaya.

The spouses started collecting pre-revolutionary Russian art in 1974, when they were thrown out of the country for harbouring a dissident writer.

They settled in the U.S and apparently wanted to re-create Russia in exile, something which has become very significant to the art world

“This collection is precious not only in terms of the value of its separate pieces but as the evidence of the life of Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya. It is also part of Russia’s cultural and social history,” says Mikhail Shvydkoy, Head of the Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography.

It was supposed to go up for auction but was cancelled last minute when Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov stepped in to buy the entire collection.
“When you’re given an offer, which is a good offer and which keeps the collection together and brings it back to Russia, how can you refuse,” explains Mark Poltimore, Chairman of Sotheby’s UK and Russia.

The exact amount Mr Usmanov paid is being kept closely under wraps but it is said to be over $US 40 MLN.

The decision to sell the works was a joint one and Ms Vishnevskaya is said to be delighted the art is being returned to its birthplace.

There is still, however, some confusion about where the art collection will end up, with some reports saying it will be broken up and put on show in various museums.