First major auction house opens

Regular sales of Ukrainian, Russian, European and American art Odessa. Odessa is no stranger to art auctions, but at the end of December it opened its first permanent auction house. Belle Epoque is the creation of retired sea captain and current city legislator Konstantin Shpilavoi.

In the 1980s and 1990s Odessa sourced art to richer markets in Moscow and Kiev, and while the city now has plenty of people willing to pay for fine art, it lacks market structures.

"The current situation of chaotic art purchases in Odessa can hardly be called an art market," said Mr Shpilavoi, 40. "I want my city to have a strong and civilised art market, and I am ready to invest big to make this happen."

Belle Epoque occupies 1,200 sq. m of space, and in addition to plans for regular auctions of Russian, Ukrainian, European and American art and antiques, Mr Shpilavoi said he will open an art restoration centre and exhibition halls.

He also hopes educational programmes will help local collectors to learn more about art opportunities. "People today in Odessa don't know the difference between Kabachenko and Kabakov," Mr Shpilavoi added. "And at the moment, people with money here spend no more than $10,000 on works of art. They can easily afford to spend much much more. They just need to realise that they're spending money on something that is really worth the high price the seller is asking."

Mr Shpilavoi claims he owns nearly 100 works including the largest collection in the Ukraine of pieces by avant-garde painter Mikhail Larionov. He wants to bring an exhibition of Warhol works to Odessa for the first time, and thinks that could be a reality by the end of 2009. He declined to comment on possible negotiations with lenders.

"In one year," said Mr Shpilavoi, "I promise that the art market in Odessa will be entirely different." J.V.

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Odessa, Ukraine Issue: 198
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