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Interview with Igor Markin
Nikolai Palazchenko: We have witnessed the mutation of a prosperous businessman into a professional collector now opening a private contemporary art museum. How has this happened?
Igor Markin: A man should permanently be changing something in his life otherwise he will be captured by panic about death. At one point I became sick and tired of business. I had some success in it; it gives me the cash flow necessary for collecting. I am a collector, in fact, a natural-born collector. I have been collecting things all my life. Besides, I like art. I have always been fond of cinema, architecture, and painting. Five years ago I fell for modern art. And, as a collector, I am laboring the infatuation into the ground, making it perfect. I go for it very earnestly and am sure I can go for it better than anyone in the world, to create a great collection the way Tretyakov and Shukin once did.
N.P.: So, your task for the next few years is to engage in collecting, is it?
I.M.: Yes, it is. I devote most of my business hours to collecting, and not only business hours. A year ago, when I bought the premises for the museum, I completely identified myself to be a collector.
N.P.: Could you say more about being a natural-born collector?
I.M.: I have understood that I am a natural-born collector from watching my son, who is very much like me. When he was a year and a half I saw that he persistently collected cigarette butts and stocked them in his pocket. And he did it day after day. Then he started collecting something else, then something else… and this he has been doing all his life.
N.P.: What did you start with? Cigarette butts?
I.M.: Before modern art I collected unique cameras, as a child I collected coins and many other things... it has always been so.
N.P.: Then it looks like you will desert your collection in some years and turn to something else, doesn’t it?
I.M.: No. Not in the next 5-10 years. But life does change. And I can start some other projects.
N.P.: It looks like collecting for you is just a temporary, marginal whim of a wealthy dandy, and not a very earnest one at that, doesn't it?
I.M.: You see, each time you get married you believe it is the last time; it is for the rest of your life. But then it turns out not to be the last one. Thus, I can give no guarantee.
N.P.: In this period you have gotten acquainted with a great number of people – artists, art critics with whom you maintain close contact. Is it just for the sake of business or is one of your ultimate causes to communicate with nice people?
I.M.: Being an introvert I don’t like communication much, but communication is the most important thing for collecting. I have no special education and there many things I don’t know. I am a qualified Radio Engineer. At first I did not buy a thing without communication. It was only via communication that I got education and information. The better the artist the cleverer and more interesting to speak with he is.
However, the visual perception of a piece of art is much more important than its description, speaking about it, or its explanation. I am constantly training the eye. I go around observing other people reading books or watching a movie. I have not bought a single picture at Art-Basel, but I visit it every year – although I am sick and tired of the city – and go to Pompidou, and other museums.
N.P.: Let us pass from the social aspect to the creative one. I wonder if you have a principle as the basis for the formation of your collection?
I.M.: There are some. A piece of art should be powerful, visually impressive, clear. The best example of such a piece is the square by Malevich. It strikes a target, causes admiration, sticks in the memory. One more principle: an artist included in the collection shall already be accomplished, recognized by the professional community. This is where communication and books are really necessary. It becomes wide-scale much later. I do not believe in an artist that I merely like, but who is not recognized by the professionals. There is also some technocratism, the principle giving grounds to a good collection and not to biased choices. And there is one more principle, a sort of filter that prevents me from going global: I collect pieces by Russian and Soviet artists.
N.P.: Despite the importance of recognition by the professional community we understand too well that such recognition is somehow relative. Do you still make the final purchase decision yourself?
I.M.: Sometimes I just know it is a good piece, and so I buy it. Just look at this Turetsky (points out a picture standing in the office). It is quite clear in general that he is an outstanding artist. It has happened more than once that I make a purchase and only then become certain that the piece is really great. I approach my collection as a manager – it is a precious feature that has helped me more than once. Something more about the market: 5 years ago I went from the overcrowded, highly competitive business market to the almost empty field of the art market. Surely, I was not alone there, but I never felt the presence of competitors and did what I preferred. Did what I wanted, bought, searched. The situation has greatly changed now. Collectors compete for good pieces. If I were to sell my collection today it would be impossible to assemble something like it.
N.P.: Don’t you think the market can be filled with fakes due to such great interest?
I.M.: Not really in the near future. Everything can be checked and found. There are only two… no, three fakes among the 700 pieces I have. But the situation is changing dramatically and prices are going up.
N.P.: Can your collection serve as a ready-made history book or is it not yet complete?
I.M.: Almost all significant names of the last 50-60 years are in my collection. History takes in artists who have done something innovative for the time when the respective piece was created. There are not many of them, no more than one hundred.
N.P.: What are you aiming at? Are you focused on the process or the results?
I.M.: My tactical task is to build a museum.
N.P.: Wouldn’t you stop the collecting process by starting the museum.
I.M.: Definitely not. A museum is also a collection tool.
I cannot collect further without a museum. I believe that Tretyakov, Shukin one day found themselves in the same situation. I cannot any longer hang the pieces in a narrow passage and admire them. If I buy a piece and put it in storage, I forget it. I lose my gut feeling and do not understand if I did the right or wrong thing. I need a response from the public, including from the professionals. A response is necessary for modern art to actually become mass-scale. Besides, this way I support the artists I have selected.
N.P.: What will become of your museum when 25-30 more private museums emerge? Will you close it?
I.M.: I would not mind. I started earlier and now it is already quite impossible to compile such a collection. Some years will pass and I will understand if I need it and how I should develop it. I am focused on collecting, not on the museum. The museum is a tool.
N.P.: Don’t you feel like a patriot, a Messiah carrying art to the people of Russia?
I.M.: I just like Moscow. I was born here and it is most probable that I will die here.
I am satisfied with everything here – the climate, the people, everything. I don’t like it abroad. And I see no patriotism in such a feeling. But it cannot be ruled out that by 70, seized by male marasmus I will engage in patriotic speeches about my contribution to Russian culture.
But not yet.
N.P.: Don’t you feel responsible for this book?
I.M.: Perhaps it is going to be a source of information… for first-year students of the Institute of Culture… and they may even refer to it. But it is the manner of presentation that is important here, not just the text under the picture. The focus is on the picture. One can fuck up the text emotionally by actually writing the truth. The process is a game, don’t approach it seriously.
Interview by Nikolai Palazhchenko 2006
Something Like an Introduction
If anybody thinks he or she can draw a square better than Malevich, he can come on and fucking do it. Don’t worry if people underestimate you – it’s not because you’re an asshole, but just because there are memsers* all around that will not live to see winter. Why should you worry about their winter if you permanently live in summer, have a positive attitude, and jump about the minefield certain there are no mines, only harmless piles of accurately placed squat. Maybe it was Kulik himself who squatted on your creative path, and you are not in your miserable apartment in some Asshole City, but in Switzerland.
It is so simple to find things you just don’t understand to be stupid and worthless. To smash with a bulldozer the exhibition of people you don’t give a shit about calling them buggers and giving them the status of mentally different persons in order to appear adequate, at least to yourself.
Well, why talk so much about this shit? Shouldn’t we change the subject? For example, let’s speak about drooling.
Drooling is everything to us. If it weren’t for drooling, there wouldn’t be shit.
How many people are drooling about other people being successful, gifted, or in demand?! As many as have read this article, plus a couple more. Come on, moisten abundantly. Saliva is the best lubricant for tight-assed hypocrites who turn pale and puke hearing the word “prick”, even when in this case the “prick” has been painted by Ter-Oganyan, Zvezdotchetov, or Osmolovsky. The word PRICK* shall sound proud, it neither causes religious hostility, nor provokes persons beyond 14 years of age to engage in sexual intercourse, sodomy, or lesbian relations with the artist.
Though, to be honest, we wanted to tell you about the world of art, modern art, and collecting, in particular. And this is the introduction to the catalogue, as you may have guessed. The catalogue, in turn, is an entrance fee for the museum of topical art – ART 4. And the museum is a collecting tool.
In this particular case, the museum is just storage space. If it seems to somebody that the museum is a way to soak through the floor to history and to immortalize one’s name in the annals (God save us) of culture, this is, mildly speaking, a mistake. And if we would not speak mildly, just look at it, almost for free, and don’t fucking talk about some historic part of the collection or some topical part of the exhibition…
Igor Markin is just a dude whose significance for the history of art is evident regardless of what parts of him bitter tongues are licking.
He gathered the collection first of all for himself and has the right to send all who are not satisfied to hell, like Ranevskaya sent the pioneers, including those citizens dissatisfied with this introduction.
It is true, Markin has no special education, neither is he an art critic nor an artist; moreover, he is a Daltonian and former radio engineer. So what? His love of art is enough to successfully invest loot in the things he simply enjoys. And he enjoys quite tangible things that are beautiful and rare.
Collecting is like a disease, the urge to snatch the coolest bubble-gum insert in order to become a bit happier than others. It is not that there are as many pictures in the collection as a fool has gum wrappers, but there are about 700 pictures, among which some shit is definitely also present. But a small portion of the shit looks nice against the average background.
When you have 11 pictures by Krasnopevtsev worth as much as 11 apartments in Moscow you can afford to buy something worth the cost of a T-shirt just because you like it, to buy, and to hang in your museum.
Anyone can offend an artist. Collectors offend artists on a regular basis, it is their hobby. And it is a justified hobby, because artists sometimes behave like that notorious old woman selling a rooster. Just how much is the rooster? Five hundred thousands bucks! Why so much? You see, sonny, I really need the money.
Everyone needs money. And, for example, artists are paid for different reasons. Kabakov and Bulatov are paid for their genius, Zvezdotchetov and Koshlyakov – for their talent, Dubossarsky and Vinogradov – for being in fashion… Vlad Monro should be in diamonds by default. It is impossible to satiate so many hungry bellies.
To invest in painting is an interesting move, but it requires grown-up investments of power, a change in one’s circle, and knowledge, as well. By the way, Markin acquired the knowledge by himself. Even a bear could sing after 5 years of close contact with people in art. Some people have no such skills and gain experience though studying in universities. Knowledge comes very quickly when one doesn’t wear his ass out at lectures but instead – oops! – buys a fake Zverev. And thrashes with it from one expert opinion to another, fucking with one’s own and other people’s minds, studying the so-called subject so as not to be caught once more with the same bait. And then the Zverev turns out to be authentic, and you are in spades and the whole world is at your feet.
Once upon a time, though not so long ago, about 12 years, Markin bought his first piece of modern art. And, like any other collector, fell into a hallucinogenic trip through museums, galleries, and auctions while quite sober. Instead of engaging in entertainment waiting like a normal Commie* for cocaine*, whores, and work, he started buying pictures. Besides, there were almost no competitors, and a clear business field is any huckster’s dream. The dude* just guessed that he could do it better than anyone in the world, constantly developing, and gaining new knowledge. It is interesting to him that he could become grand doing almost the same things that Tretyakov and Shukin did.
Let us continue speaking about the museum. Is it possible to appreciate a 3x4 meter picture if it hangs in an office corridor and you stand touching the canvas with your beak. That’s hoggery and an eyesore! So, when the soul calls for the feast to continue in the form of a museum, the museum will appear.
Surely, not the greatest museum in its significance to art, but, whoopee, sometimes size also matters. In general, 600 meters is quite enough to display the major pearls of the collection. But there is not enough space for a fountain.
Without the usual activities, Markin has become an altruist. To buy 600 meters in the centre of Moscow and to make repairs is not as easy as pissing in doorways, it is fucking difficult!
But somebody should act as the mother of modern art, generously giving it all 13 nipples!?
Artists need appraisal and appreciation, preferably in cash. There are no hungry artists in present-day modern art. It is not comme il faut – to be widely acknowledged on a massive scale post mortem. We should admit that for a museum, for a collector, a good artist is a dead artist. But Timur Petrovich Novikov has died in vain; some people should live forever.
Artists who have lost their minds are also good. Chubarov could have cut off his ear, but instead he paints with two hands simultaneously, while his brain is completely astral. Weisberg cut his veins because of models being late, while Yakovlev has just spent half his life in a nut house. On the whole, not all guys drawing, creating, and doing things have got their pieces of the pie. They just have not lived long enough to get it.
Modern art also needs support, otherwise it will perish. The epoch of exhibitions in communal apartments is gone even in St Petersburg. The underground is as dead as rock ’n’ roll. Even Tzoy’s boiler room has become kitsch. The system of good old alcoholic values has crashed. What would people know of art if it were not for the Tretyakovs-Markins?
People are always eager for bread and circuses. If you need something for the gut – there is none of that here. Everything that stimulates emotions and is a subject for discussion is a sort of circus. It doesn’t matter what you do. The novelty of a concept, an invention, and the discovery is what’s primary. The one who is first is a genius. He makes history painting a black square, biting people on their legs, chopping up icons in public, and erecting barricades on Nikitskaya Street. Outrageous. Scandalous. And a distinct new accent in the history of art.
Markin is the first man in the last 100 years who has set up a private modern art museum — a museum both for him and for us.
People frequently ask why oh why is it called ÀRT 4.RU, and in the end everyone does ask. For those who prefer to go around in the dark – ART 4.RU translated into Russian means art for Rushka*.
Don’t shoot altruists – they are playing the best they can. If you can play better – no fucking problem! Come on, go and paint a Malevich square, set up a museum, or read this article from the beginning and try to write it better.
Brief glossary for those in the dark.
Memser – a bloody mixture of an asshole and a loser
PRICK – ask Ter-Oganyan
Cocaine – an expensive narcotic
Dude – a man
Commie – an entrepreneur
Khavchik (something for the gut) - food
Rushka – Russia (diminutive and derogatory)