Russia’s largest private gallery opens

Collector and dealer Alexander Yakut's new enterprise is his most ambitious yet


Moscow. The Russian dealer Alexander Yakut has opened a new space in a dilapidated industrial district in central Moscow. Mr Yakut—who, with Aidan Solokhov, opened Russia’s first private art gallery, Aidan, in Moscow in 1990—has owned several galleries over the past decade. His latest space, the Yakut Gallery, is by far his most ambitious. Covering some 1,000 square metres, it is now Russia’s largest private gallery.

“With this large space, I can do whatever I want, and be independent of government bureaucrats,’’ says Mr Yakut. Some of his previous large-scale exhibitions have been seen in state-owned exhibition centres, and Mr Yakut is scathing about the corrupt or meddlesome State officials with whom he says he was forced to work.

The Yakut Gallery is located in an early 20th-century factory behind the Kursky train station in the centre of Moscow. To reach it, visitors must first pass by scowling Soviet-style guards and then walk down a decrepit path, past dilapidated buildings, to get to the cylindrical red-brick gallery, which was built as a natural-gas cistern 100 years ago. This stands in sharp contrast to most Moscow galleries, which are located in upmarket neighbourhoods.

None of this seems to bother art collectors in Moscow. In fact, they seem to positively enjoy the poverty of the area. The factory’s buildings are filling up with photographers, artists and fashionistas.

Renovation of the factory cost $300,000, and Mr Yakut was assisted by his current business partner, Natalia Ivanova, wife of Sergei Ivanov, the Moscow businessman. While her husband collects 19th-century Russian art, Ms Ivanova said that she prefers contemporary and is keen to discover new talent.

“While we want to make money, the art business should differ from say, the oil business,’’ says Mr Yakut. “This is a passion for me, and the ethical component is very important; there is a whole new generation of Russian artists bursting onto the scene, and my main goal is to support them.’’