Preprint Open Access I Kunst- und Museumsstiftungen der Moskauer Wirtschaftselite

Bayer, Waltraud M.

Private art museums and foundations are on the rise – worldwide. Since the 1990s, their number and impact on global art and museums have dramatically increased. In the Russian Federation, however, this development lagged behind. Only after the millennium, in the wake of the privatization of the economy, did Russia’s newly formed economic elite follow suit. Notably the second decade of the 21st century witnessed a sharp increase in ‘oligarch’ art philanthropy, foundations and museums – covering a broad range of genres: from contemporary to religious art, from modernism to the avant-garde, from Socialist realism to the Soviet ‘severe’ style, from Imperial Russian heritage to ethnic or foreign legacies. Some philanthropists have launched museum or institutional initiatives. Others have invested in urban gentrification projects for mixed commercial-cultural use; still others have funded museum projects, awards or donations. A characteristic feature has been their growing involve­ment abroad: Russia’s tycoons financed biennials, co-operated with leading foreign institutions and private foundations, acted as donors and trustees on international museum boards. In addition, some bought into auction houses or took over prestigious pub­lishing networks in the West.

For years, their contribution to the (inter-)national museum world had been of increasing relevance. Yet contrary to the rising influence of Russian private art museums and foundations, international museum research has long neglected this subject.

This widely uncharted, multilayered terrain has been the subject of a comprehensive research project funded by the Austrian Science Fund, FWF. The results are now available open-access. The innovative study is based on representative case studies and rare empirical data, drawn from mainly Russian primary and secondary source material. It relies on a broad comparative theoretical framework, elaborated largely by contemporary museum and philanthropy studies.

The work spans three decades, from perestroika to the outbreak of the health crisis in 2020; the latter considerably impacted both philanthropic ventures and on-site research.

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