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Unraveling Moscow’s Most Mysterious Art Collection

Until recently, dual policemen sat in a automobile 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by a opening to an typical residential retard in a core of Moscow. Through a opening on Nikitsky Bulvar and adult a prosaic stairwell, another policeman sits and keeps watch outward an unit door.

Behind a doorway is pronounced to be a puzzling collection estimable of a queen, or even a president: some-more than 1,000 paintings, sculptures and other artworks by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and other Renaissance masters — all packaged into a three-room apartment.

The collection, value a reported $2 billion, for now belongs to octogenarian Nina Moleva, though she has bequeathed it to a state — some-more precisely, to President Vladimir Putin. The police, she says and a state central confirms, are there to strengthen a collection.

“I have left it to a president,” Moleva told The Moscow Times when reached by phone. “I have zero else to say.”

One of a policemen on avocation outward a unit building this summer pronounced he had been gripping watch for dual years. “We know about a art though we have never seen it,” he said, disappearing to give his name as he spoke from his car, parked on a side of a road. “We don’t have hit with a owner.”

“There is an unit full of art, we saw it once. we consider it is Dutch,” pronounced Vladimir, a policeman who was gripping watch outward Moleva’s prosaic on a fifth building and who also refused to give his final name.

Last week, a troops automobile had left from Nikitsky Bulvar, though another policeman during a theatre reliable that officers were still inside examination her door.

Moleva has formerly given Russian state channel Kultura a debate turn a apartment, indicating out a treasures on show.

“That is Rembrandt,” pronounced Moleva, indicating to a portrayal in an talk in 2013. “That one — when Italian specialists came they were literally in hysterics — that is [by] a immature Michelangelo. We have another Michelangelo there.”

A Wondrous Tale

The story of this art collection, as told by Moleva and her late father Ely Belyutin, a obvious fashionable artist who died in 2012, is one of secrecy, miracles and a lot of questions.

Moleva and Belyutin have pronounced in interviews over a years that a collection was started by Belyutin’s grandfather, Ivan Grinyov, a theatre artist during majestic theaters in Moscow, who had a passion for European art.

“Grinyov was paid good during a theater,” Moleva pronounced in an talk with Moskovsky Komsomolets journal progressing this year. “He wanted to turn a enthusiast of a humanities like Pavel Tretyakov [the 19th-century art gourmet and owner of a Tretyakov Gallery]… so he bought paintings during European auctions.”

The story goes that Grinyov housed his collection in his 12-room unit in Moscow in a building where Moleva now lives. After a revolution, he hid his value trove of art in a feign integument in one of a high ceilinged rooms, as he knew that a Bolsheviks would seize it as they did with many famous art collections during that time.

They didn’t find a art though they did chuck Grinyov out of a apartment, branch it into a kommunalka — a village unit that housed dozens of people.

During a subsequent 4 decades, a artworks — rolled adult and stored in cylinders — remained untouched, until 1968 when Belyutin and Moleva won a right to pierce behind into 3 of a bedrooms in a strange apartment.

The integrate changed in, Moleva told Moskovsky Komsomolets, and when they non-stop adult a attic, a art — a Rubens, Velazquez, outpost Dyck — was still there watchful for them.

After a dissection of a Soviet Union, a integrate had a work valued by Hotel Drouot, a Paris-based auction residence that put a starting cost of $400 million and an estimated genuine value of $2 billion.

That, during least, is Moleva’s chronicle of a story, told countless times over a years. But on closer inspection, a some-more formidable and extraordinary story emerges.

Too Good to Be True

Some internal media who have oral to Moleva and been given a debate of her unit have printed her story though doubt it, though publisher Alla Shevelkina visited Moleva and Belyutin twice and dug deeper than others in a news for French journal L’Express in 2007.

She doesn’t trust them.

“Each time there is a opposite story and a opposite chronicle of where a collection was hidden,” Shevelkina told The Moscow Times in e-mailed comments.

Moleva’s art-loving forerunner Grinyov can't be verified, Shevelkina said. She could not find him in a registers of Moscow skill owners. She did find dual Grinyovs in majestic museum archives, though both were dancers and both female.

“Ivan Grinyov … is an invention,” she said. “A painter/stage artist did not acquire adequate to buy art. His name can't be found anywhere, and during that time, all collectors were known, a Tretyakov brothers, [Sergei] Shchukin, [Ivan] Morozov etc. — they didn’t need to hide.”

In a Moscow art community, there is also a lot of doubt about a art and Moleva’s story.

“The collection has turn a bit of a myth,” pronounced Valentin Dyakonov, a curator and art censor during a Kommersant newspaper. “It would have been formidable to find such items, and nobody knows where a art came from,” he added.

“No one has been to value a collection. There has been no consultant evaluation,” pronounced Milena Orlova, editor of The Art Newspaper Russia. “We usually have her [Moleva’s] word, so it is misleading what is there.”

Initially, Moleva attempted to present a collection to a Moscow museum, she told internal media, observant that a series of works had been given away.

The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts refused to accept a collection.

“I am unequivocally certain in my ideas about [the collection], a large names like Leonardo [da Vinci] and El Greco are not there, … they, and even other paintings in a collection, are copies,” pronounced Viktoria Markova, an consultant in Italian paintings during a Pushkin Museum who has not seen a collection though saw a catalog of a art that was put together in 1992 by an Italian publisher.

From a outward of a unit building, there is no denote of a probable value trove stored within.

Imperial or Soviet?

The skeptics have a series of theories about a collection, observant it does enclose engaging art though that there is no tip integument or 19th-century collector.

“The collection was never hidden, it has existed given a late ’40s or early ’50s,” pronounced Shevelkina.

Parisian portrayal consultant Eric Turquin visited a collection with a veteran from a Drouot auction residence in a early 1990s, though he told French journal L’Express that he did not guess a collection during $400 million, and that he had not listened of a thespian tale of Grinyov and a tip attic.

Turquin reliable to The Moscow Times that he had seen a paintings and that “there were some fantastic attributions made, though it was an altogether conspicuous physique of eremite paintings from a 16th and 17th centuries, put together by this cultivated pledge gourmet during a Stalin era. we won’t contend any some-more than that.”

The pivotal to a collection is Belyutin, a distinguished painter whose work was among those that drew a rage of Soviet personality Nikita Khrushchev in 1962 during Moscow’s Manezh Exhibition Hall.

The exhibit, called “New Reality,” was ostensible to uncover off a new art that had seemed underneath a unfreeze — a relaxation of a Soviet complement after Stalin’s genocide in 1953 — though an barbarous Khrushchev slammed a artists, who enclosed Belyutin and his students, as “fags” and their work as “filth,” observant “Can we not draw? My grandson can pull improved than this.”

Belyutin and a other radical artists’ work were thrown out of a exhibit.

Living a High Life

Belyutin reportedly went into stealing after a Manezh scandal, though his flaw was not finish and for a Soviet artist, he did surprisingly well.

Oskar Rabin, one of a pioneers of Soviet nonconformism, remembers visiting Belyutin’s prosaic in a 1960s.

“He pronounced there was a Leonardo da Vinci, though we don’t know if it was real. It’s tough to say,” Rabin told The Moscow Times in a phone talk from Paris where he now lives.

“Compared to us, he was abounding since he had this collection. You have to be abounding to get an costly collection like that. He had a lot of costly seat too, and a large dacha where he would accept critical visitors.”

The relations oppulance by Soviet standards of Belyutin and Moleva’s lifestyle led to a series of rumors. L’Express wrote in a story that they were rumored to be art collectors and dealers for Soviet leaders as good as tighten friends with Yury Andropov, conduct of a KGB in a 1970s and after a Soviet leader.

In a talk with Kultura, Moleva points to a chair and boasts about how Fidel Castro once sat there.

Another speculation for a puzzling collection’s origins is that Belyutin, who is rumored to have worked as a Soviet troops comprehension officer, acquired a art during World War II when a lot of prize art was brought behind from degraded Germany.

“His collection could have a approach couple to his work as an comprehension officer,” Dyakonov said, “They could be stolen. We have many such equipment in Russia. The Pushkin Museum and a Hermitage, for example, have paintings in their land that were taken from Germany.”

Shevelkina, who also thinks it probable that a paintings are from Germany, suggested that Moleva and Belyutin suspicion adult a regretful behind story as a some-more engaging alternative.

One Man’s Inheritance

Whatever is in a collection, whatever a origin, Moleva already knows where a collection will go: to Putin.

The family had prolonged designed to leave a collection to a state, though Moleva told Moskovsky Komsomolets that her counsel told her that she indispensable to name an particular chairman — so she wrote down Putin’s name.

Vladimir Tolstoi, a informative confidant to a president, reliable in a phone talk progressing this month that Moleva had bequeathed her collection to a state and that as, “thank God, she is alive and well,” it remained with her in a apartment. The state supposing a troops guard, he said.

Many might doubt either a bequeathed art unequivocally does embody a treasures that Moleva says, though there are others assured of a authenticity.

“I usually know what we have seen on a TV,” pronounced a lady who works in a bookstore subsequent doorway to Moleva’s building and who refused to give her name. “Of march it is genuine — if it wasn’t real, a supervision would not send troops to unit outward a building during all hours.”

Contact the author at artsreporter@imedia.ru

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/535335.html