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Russian wealth, love for art make for roaring trade at Moscow art fair

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MOSCOW, Sept 24 (AFP) - Moscow's new wealth and Russians' appreciation of master painting and antiques are turning the Russian capital into a major fixture on the international art market, exhibitors at the second Moscow Fine Art Fair said this week.

"There's a lot of potential here, a lot of money, culture," said Thierry Hobaica, from the Geneva-based Jan Krugier, Ditesheim and Cie art gallery, exhibiting an impressive collection of Picasso.

Picasso portraits, Pissarro landscapes and Renoir nudes jostle for space with hammer-and-sickle drawings by Andy Warhol and Botero's rounded sculptures at the fair, which runs from September 20 to 26 in the Tsarist-era Manezh hall close to Red Square.

The fair also features Russian art, from the two thousand year old gold jewels of the Scyths, an ancient civilization of the steppes, through 19th century Ivan Aivazovsky's seascapes, to the bright colours of Natalya Goncharova from the early 20th century.

"Compared to other clients, Russia has a population that has a lot of culture," said Patrick Berko, who specializes in Belgian nineteenth century art.

When the fair opened on Tuesday, exhibitors agreed that buyers, mostly private individuals, came out in strength.

Benoit Sapiro from the Parisian Minautore gallery, specializing in East European paintings from the first half of the twentieth century, sold four paintings on the first day.

The main clients, he said, were "oligarchs" and industrialists with personal worth of at least 200 million dollars (165 million euros).

An influx of wealth in Moscow means there are luxurious new houses and apartments to furnish.

"A family came wanting to transform their art nouveau apartment into an art deco one," said an exhibitor at the Art Deco stall.

But more avant-garde works were absent from the fair.

"Truly contemporary art isn't shown as much in Moscow as it is in London, Paris or New York," said Ezra Chowaiki from the New York-based Chowaiki-Mosionzhnik gallery.

"Russian art-lovers have trouble digesting foreign art -- that's why there are only very well-known foreign artists exhibited here," said Mariya Lipatova from Russia's Elysium gallery, set up in 1997.

Elysium is selling a brightly-painted still life of almond tree branches in a pitcher by Natalya Goncharova for 250,000 dollars (206,300 euros).

Another Russian artist, Dashi, born in 1967, finds inspiration for his elongated bronze sculptures in the tales of his native Buryatia, Asiatic traditions and ancient Scythian art.



COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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