Billionaire’s wife will open (another) contemporary gallery in (another) Melnikov bus garage

MOSCOW. The Art Newspaper can reveal that Stella Kesaeva, the Russian contemporary art collector and wife to Russian billionaire Igor Kesaev, signed an agreement with the Russian Culture Ministry to open a museum of contemporary art in Moscow in a bus garage built in the 1920s by modernist architect, Konstantin Melnikov.

The 11,000 square metre garage, located close to the Kazan Train Station in the city centre, is currently used by a city-run bus company, which must be relocated before renovations begin. The museum is tentatively set to open in 2014, and will initially display art from Kesaeva's collection, which has about 600 works, most of which are Russian postwar art. The museum will be a joint publc-private venture, and it's hoped the state will provide money for new acquisitions, said Kesaeva. The museum will also have Russia's first contemporary art academy, and a concert hall for contemporary music.

''It's embarassing that such a rich and large country as Russia doesn't yet have a museum like the Pompidou or MoMA,'' said Kesaeva in an interview on Oct. 28 at Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum, where she opened an exhibition of 40 works from her collection. ''I am a patriot of my country, and every civilised country should have such a museum.''

The announcement comes a month after Dasha Zhukova opened an arts center in another garage built by Melnikov with financial support from her boyfriend, Roman Abramovich. Kesaeva said her plans for the other Melnikov garage date to 2005 when she first conceived the project.

''We have a different mission, and they have their mission,'' said Kesaeva, who has never been in contact with Zhukova. ''All this activity is good for Russia's contemporary art scene.''

Zhukova first conceived her Garage project late in 2007.

Kesaeva is head of the Moscow-based Stella Art Foundation, founded in 2004. She previously went by the name, Stella Kay, which she used to mainitain her family's privacy, especially her husband who heads, Mercury Group, which has interests in retail trade, mining, oil, and real estate. Mercury Group is the main supporter of Stella's foundation, and will support the Garage project. It has no relation to Mercury, the Moscow luxury goods company that bought a stake in Phillips de Pury in early October.

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