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Roman Abramovich funds London exhibition
The Art Newspaper   The Art Newspaper
27 November 2006

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The London-based Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, 39, is funding an exhibition of photographs by Max Penson (1893-1959) opening on 29 November at the Gilbert Collection at Somerset House in London.

Several Russian oligarchs based in St Petersburg and Moscow have supported the arts in the last few years but Mr Abramovich, whose wealth is estimated by The Sunday Times at £10,800m, has not been known to be one of them.

The amount the 39-year old owner of Chelsea Football Club has given to fund “Max Penson: photographs of Uzbekistan” has not been disclosed.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Olga Sviblova, director of the Moscow House of Photography, which has organised the show, says that Mr Abramovich also supported an exhibition drawn from the Moscow museum at the Gilbert Collection last year. “Quiet Resistance: Russian Pictorial Photography 1900s-1930s” included over 100 works by leading avant-garde practitioners.

Solar eclipse being watched by passengers through the windows of a bus © Max Penson, 1934. Courtesy Russian ACT

“I have never met Mr Abramovich,” says Ms Sviblova, “but I sent his office the catalogue for our show last year and asked him for his support. He said yes. Quiet Resistance was well received by the critics and Mr Abramovich was happy about the press reaction. This year I sent his office the catalogue for the Max Penson exhibition and, again, he said yes.”

“It’s good that he’s started to support not just football but also culture,” added Ms Sviblova.

The exhibition includes over 200 photographs taken between 1920 and 1940 documenting the transformation of Uzbekistan into a modern Soviet Republic.

We understand that Mr Abramovich’s wife has started buying art from London dealers in recent months. She is believed to be collecting Russian paintings.

The show is part of a festival of Russian Art in London “ACT 2006”. It runs until 11 February 2007.
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