Thanks to him, an easy-going atmosphere is created at the auctions; this relaxed atmosphere in its turn relaxes the bidders and at the same time inspires them to bid for works of art they have liked until the very last. It should be mentioned here the Vystavkovy Tsentr forms what may be called quite a civilized art market in Kyiv, and does it along the lines accepted in the western world. It is surely a very positive phenomenon. Many sensible Ukrainians who are making considerable amounts of money have realized at last that buying works of art is not only excellent and secure investment — art is beauty captured for eternity, and works of art acquired for one's home ennoble it. Oles Ilchenko, a free lance journalist, has interviewed Oleksandr Brey.
Q: How did the whole thing, auctions that is, start? How is the
art market in Ukraine developing? What are the prospects of art auction
and art gallery businesses in Kyiv and in Ukraine?
|New businessmen do not seem to be much interested in getting together informally and talking about all kinds of things, not necessarily business. Not like it used to be: we would get together, discuss our new acquirements, share our joy over them. A fellow collector could call me at midnight and tell me he "has got something fantastic" and I would rush to his place to have a look at it. Nothing of the kind ever happens these days. Probably, new times require new ways of socializing. As far as the prospects of further development are concerned...There are new trends, new interests, our market is getting to be more civilized. The number of collectors who appreciate and want to acquire Ukrainian art of the 19th-20th centuries steadily grows. There were times when third- rate paintings by foreign painters were purchased mostly for their beautiful frames. Now there is a definite shift in interest — Ukrainian painters are in vogue. Ukrainian painters are closer to our hearts and more understandable to our minds. We, at our centre, made purposeful efforts to promote Ukrainian art. We promoted Ukrainian painting of the "classical" realistic trend. There was little, if any, of this kind of painting produced in Europe for decades, from the 1940s to 1970s.||
Secret Rendezvous. By Julius Grun.
Oil on canvas, 89 cm x 68.5 cm.
Ferriage on the Dnipro River.
By S. Svetislavsky. Oil on canvas, 63 cm x 49.5 cm.
|Yes, the Soviet empire allowed only
realistic painting to be officially exhibited, but on the other hand, painters
were supported by the state, they were given studios, provided with paints
and canvases at reduced prices, were given chances to travel at the expense
of the state. Many paintings of this realistic trend are worth to be exhibited
and purchased. Take, for example, the Ukrainian Zakarpatsky ("Transcarpathian")
school of painting — most of the works are immediately recognizable as belonging
to this school, very different from anything else, without any ideological
bias, richly colourful, decoratively expressive. I'm sure now I did right
when I went into art business. I know I'm doing what I enjoy doing. There
are problems, of course, to be overcome, but you can hardly expect to see
art dealers with no problems.
Q: There are, if I understand it right, collectors who collect paintings knowing exactly what they want, and those who act guided by intuition, right?
|A: Yes, that's right. In the early 1990s, people bought paintings without much knowledge of art, paintings were to just decorate their apartments. Now, the situation is radically different — the number of such collectors has been greatly reduced and the number of those who can be called "true collectors" has increased. Also, there are many art connoisseurs. It's a very good tendency, it is evidence of the fact that our society is moving in the right direction, acquiring more vitality and vigour. People are interested in more than just having a good rest at an expensive resort, they are getting more and more attracted by true values in life.||
Wintertime. By M. Glushchenko.
Oil on canvas, 46 cm x 63 cm.
Witchcraft. By Jean Arnold Heyermans. Oil on canvas,
61.5 cm x 42 cm.
|Collecting works of art develops
artistic tastes, develops personality. I'm sure there will soon emerge in
Ukraine new Tereshchenkos and Khanenkos who were prominent art patrons and
collectors of the early 20th century and whose collections are in museums
now. At the same time, one must not expect there will be too many people
who devote themselves to collecting art, collectors have always constituted
a small fraction of society. I find it to be a very positive thing when
I see 30- or 40-year old businessmen at auctions buying works of art with
money they have earned. Before they purchase anything, they think it over
very carefully, ask questions, go to museums and galleries.
Q: Do you sometimes feel sorry to part with this or that painting?
A: Well, I must tell you I never sell paintings from my own collection, but one always feels sorry parting with a good painting. As a matter of fact, we don't sell bad paintings. I do my best to auction paintings of top quality only. It's the only way to retain a proper image. Who cares now to buy bad art?
Q: What kind of paintings do you collect yourself?
A: Mostly it's Russian and Ukrainian paintings of the late 19th
and early 20th centuries. Very good quality, too. That period is often
referred to as "the Silver Age."
| Q: How profitable is your business?
A: The last auction was quite successful, though two or three years ago potential buyers had more money. But as I said things are starting to move, and this last auction is a proof of that. Some time ago I predicted an economic and financial revival would begin in 2000, and I think it is happening. There are a lot of things that show that our country has a future, that it is not just a backwater place of Europe. Kyiv can become a major centre of Central and Eastern Europe. If you look around — in Rumania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Poland — you won't find a place like Kyiv, particularly in culture. In the early 20th century it was not only a major economic and financial centre of the Russian Empire, but a major cultural centre, too! There were many art collectors and art patrons in Kyiv. Our businessmen are very active, they are aggressive in a good sense of the word, they are determined to achieve success. And they will have more and more money to spend on art, though there are people even now who may spend on a painting almost all they have saved. I don't think any westerner would do it. I'm looking into the future with optimism.