"Bloomberg.com", February 20, 2007
Moscow Magnate Unveils Exhibition Space for 20th-Century Art
By John Varoli Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) - The Ekaterina Cultural Foundation, a Moscow-based organization headed by Vladimir Semenikhin, the owner of construction company Stroyteks, opens Russia's first private contemporary-art exhibition hall this evening.
The first show, "Movement, Evolution and Art",' will be accessible to the public tomorrow and features 80 pieces from Semenikhin's collection of works since 1916 by artists such as Erik Bulatov, Alexander Kosolapov, Lidia Masterkova, Vladimir Dubosarsky, Alexander Vinogradov and Oleg Kulik.
As Russia enters its ninth year of economic growth, in large part driven by high prices for oil, gas, and metals, a growing class of wealthy Russians is collecting art.
"Many Russian collectors hide their art, but our collection is for all to see,'' Semenikhin, said, sitting in his office, decorated by contemporary works, on Moscow's fashionable Kuznetsky Most Street. "We gladly contribute to museum exhibitions, and we want to help the Moscow market develop."
Among the works on show is "Minnie & Mickey: Worker and Farmgirl'' (2004), a bronze statue by Kosolapov with the cartoon characters as heroes of Soviet labor. "Female Athlete'' (2002), by Kulik, is an installation with a life-size wax model of a tennis player resembling Anna Kournikova suspended in air.
The foundation was created in 2002 by Semenikhin and his wife, Ekaterina, to support Russian art exhibitions. The foundation staged a March 2004 show in Monaco of Russian modernist paintings from the Knave of Diamonds movement. The show traveled to the State Russian Museum and to the Tretyakov Gallery.
"Vladimir Semenikhin is one of the leading figures of the Russian art scene and one of the major collectors of early 20th century Russian art,'' said Alexander Gertsman, a New York-based dealer. "He's now collecting contemporary art and has amassed some interesting works.''
Semenikhin, who lives in Monaco and Moscow, owns Stroyteks, one of the Russian capital's largest construction companies.
Born and raised in one of Russia's most impoverished regions, Chita, on the Chinese border, Semenikhin graduated in 1989 from the Moscow State University of Civil Engineering and joined a building company. He began collecting in 1994, a year before he founded Stroyteks.
As prices for classical Russian art rose in the late 1990s, he and his wife began collecting the Knave of Diamonds movement. While these works are now among the most expensive on the Russian art market, at that time few people even knew of them. Semenikhin then moved on to the next undiscovered group, the non-conformist artists of the 1960s and 1970s.