Russian Federation

Russia’s Art Media Group folds

The publisher of art magazines and websites has closed following its owner's arrest in March

st petersburg. The Art Media Group, Russia’s largest media company for the art world, closed its operations in May. The company, founded in July 2007, did not make an official announcement about its demise.

The arrest in March of the company’s owner, Russian businessman Valery Nosov, placed a major financial strain on the company’s operations. Though the firm never commented on its financial situation, it was always believed to be unprofitable, according to sources at the company.

Art Media published the Russian edition of Art+Auction, the US magazine owned by Louise Blouin, as well as Open Space, a Russian-language internet portal for culture news, and Black Square, a Russian contemporary art magazine.

“Everything is already closed,” said Ekaterina Degot, chief editor of the art section at Open Space and its leading art critic. “There are people who want to buy Open Space. Negotiations are in progress, I believe.”

In addition to fine art, Open Space has sections dedicated to music, theatre, cinema and literature. At the time of posting, its website was still running, and earlier this month a banner on the top of the page declared in English: “Too good to be closed.”

The Russian version of Art+Auction debuted in December 2008, and was published bi-monthly. Nosov bought the franchise rights from the US parent company for an undisclosed sum. The Russian version combined material from the US magazine as well as locally authored articles.

A spokesperson for Louise Blouin declined to comment, but one source at Art Media Group said that Art+Auction is hoping to find an investor to resurrect the Russian-language edition of the magazine.

“Russia lacks competent and, especially, independent art media,” said Degot. “By this, I mean art media that are independent from the state, from art business, as well as from the haute bourgeoisie. Mr Nosov did not have any commercial interests in art, this was his major plus.”

In mid March, Nosov was charged with fraud while serving from 2007-08 as deputy finance minister of the Moscow Region, the territory surrounding the city of Moscow. Russian police claim the fraud cost the government 27 billion rubles, (around $900m), and that Nosov had helped create an “organised criminal group”, using his government position to embezzle money from the state budget.

Art Media’s demise leaves its main competitor, Art Chronika, as the country’s leading art media group, owned by Russian businessman Shalva Breus. Art Chronika is a monthly art magazine and website and the company also sponsors the Kandinsky Prize, Russia’s main contemporary art prize.

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