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Russia’s private museums defy the economic odds

Institutions are burgeoning in the face of sanctions and currency devaluation

Despite the triple blow of sanctions, the devaluation of the rouble and an economic crisis, a raft of private museum projects is moving ahead in Russia. The V-A-C Foundation, founded by the Russian oil magnate Leonid Mikhelson, has commissioned Italian architect Renzo Piano to convert a former power plant into a contemporary art centre. It is due to open in Moscow by 2019.

The initiative is part of the city’s plan to create a new museum district on Bolotnaya Embankment. The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the State Tretyakov Gallery and Dasha Zhukova’s new Garage Museum for Contemporary Art are all within walking distance.

The two-hectare design includes an outdoor piazza, a sculpture garden and library. The venue will share programmes with V-A-C’s Venice branch, which is due to open in 2016. “V-A-C’s mission from the very beginning has been to open up Russia to the rest of the world,” says Teresa Iarocci Mavica, the foundation’s director.

A private museum is also at the heart of a plan to turn a former Bolshevik confectionery plant into a business and cultural centre in Moscow. O1 Group, the investment holding company of Boris Mints, controls the site. A museum of Russian Impressionism based on Mints’s private collection, which includes works by Boris Kustodiev and Konstantin Korovin, is due to open in spring 2016. In October, another Russian magnate, Vagit Alekperov, the president of Lukoil and one of Russia’s richest men, opened a numismatics museum in Moscow.

Mavica says of the museum boom: “The whole country has opened up considerably, and is doing so more and more, to the importance of the development of arts and culture.”