Posted 31 марта 2021,, 06:01

Published 31 марта 2021,, 06:01

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:36

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:36

Private museum in Riga: what questions arise in connection with the collection of Petr Aven

Private museum in Riga: what questions arise in connection with the collection of Petr Aven

31 марта 2021, 06:01
Фото: Exhibition catalogue, Riga, 2015.
The chairman of the board of directors of Alfa-Bank, Peter Aven, bought a building in the center of Riga, where he decided to open a museum, where a unique collection of Russian painting of the early 20th century will also be exhibited.

But how did Aven take the masterpieces out of Russia and are there any "controversial" paintings among them that disappeared under tragic circumstances? This is what Novye Izvestia's investigation is about.

Sergey Lvov, Yelena Ivanova, Natalia Seibil


As noted by, The banker had been thinking for a long time that the pearls from his collections “needed a decent framing” and was looking for premises for the museum. And finally it was found in Riga on the street. Valdemara, 19.

Petr Aven himself said that Latvia is the birthplace of his grandfather, and his family spends a lot of time here.

“And I hope that the conceived museum, its permanent exposition and exhibitions held in it, will make a significant contribution to the Latvian cultural life, make Latvia more recognizable in the world and increase the tourist interest in Latvia and Riga”, - said Petr Aven.

Later, Aven told RBC that the investment in the museum would amount to $ 4 million, but this, of course, without the cost of paintings and drawings. It is known that in his possession a portrait of Velimir Khlebnikov, written by Mikhail Larionov in 1910, masterpieces by Konstantin Korovin, Petr Konchalovsky, Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky, Boris Kustodiev, Robert Falk, Ilya Mashkov and Aristarkh Lentulov... As recalled by RBC, In 2020, Forbes estimated the collection's value at no less than $ 500 million.

The decision to create a museum in the Latvian capital was more than prudent on the part of the co-owner of Alfa-Bank. The fact is that since February of this year, amendments to the Criminal Code have been in effect in the Baltic republic. According to these changes, the state, represented by the head of the Department of National Heritage, has the right to inspect any art collection and require confirmation of the origin of each item, including sales contracts.

President of the Riga Collectors' Association Janis Upmalis says:

"In Latvia, a person can purchase such items, but they cannot be exported outside Latvia. For export, they must be assessed by a special state commission. The cost of obtaining or refusing to obtain such a permit is 38 euros per unit. On the other hand, if I order antiques from France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, it will be delivered to me without any problems within three days. This means that we, Latvian collectors, can no longer compete with collectors from European countries. We are forbidden to do almost everything".

Out of harm's way, collectors either hide their riches and sell them abroad, or, like Petr Aven, open private museums. The Criminal Code does not make such claims to them.

Here one could put an end to and rejoice for the citizens of Latvia and tourists, who will become visitors to a private museum and see live masterpieces of Russian art along with the Latvian collections of Petr Aven. However, a number of details of the project lead to uncomfortable questions for the collector.


According to Aven, who spent the last five months in Riga due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the purchase was spontaneous (our emphasis - ed.) , Because the price of the building turned out to be higher than the market price. And, perhaps for this reason, the buyer did not go into the history of the mansion.

Deputy of the Riga City Council Miroslav Mitrofanov (Russian Union of Latvia) told RIA Novosti , that I am glad of the new museum, however ... this building was used by local accomplices of the Hitler regime during the Nazi occupation of Latvia.

"In 1941, it was the headquarters of the local Nazi organization - Pērkonkrusts. In July 1941, the executioners of Arajs' team lived there, destroying the Jewish community of Riga. Directly in the building on Valdemar Street at that time, people were massively tortured and shot. I don't know. how you can find a delicate solution, respectful of the memory of the victims of Nazism. I hope Aven's specialists will be able to do this", - Mitrofanov said.

Pērkonkrusts ("Thunder Cross") is a Latvian nationalist and anti-Semitic organization with Nazi ideology. It was created in the 1930s and numbered about 5 thousand people, the newspaper "Sputnik" notes. It is possible that in modern Latvia "crusaders" are not war criminals, but the Jewish community certainly has a different opinion. Therefore, Petr Aven will have to look for arguments in favor of his choice.


The exportation of a huge art collection has to be explained in Russia as well. Left-wing patriotic forces have already assessed Aven's plans in the most impartial formulations. For example, RIA "Katyusha" notes:

"One of the legendary members of Yeltsin's "Semibankirshchyna", who, according to Forbes magazine, in 2020 ranked 23rd in the list of the richest citizens of Russia with a personal fortune of $ 4.6 billion... began the quiet export of valuables from Russia to a NATO country. Pure coincidence", - he stepped up the export with the coming to power of Biden and a clear US strategy for the collapse of Russia... And this means one of two things: either he knows that our country is awaiting shocks and a massacre, or he heard that there will be a purge of the "family" and began to take out what the state can return".

The powers that be have had troubles with the export of paintings and cultural objects before. For example, Alfred Kokh , former Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Board of Gazprom-Media, was accused of smuggling a painting by Isaac Brodsky in 2014. The ex-official claimed that it was a fake. After a second examination commissioned by the FSB, the work was recognized as genuine. In September 2015, Who was charged with smuggling. Six months later, Alfred Koch was put on the international wanted list. He is charged under Article 226.1 of the Criminal Code on smuggling weapons, explosives, poisons, as well as rare animals and items of cultural value for the country. It provides for a sentence of three to seven years in prison and a fine.

Whether the state will take away the assets of former and current oligarchs is a big question. But in the collection of Petr Aven, as art critics suspect, there may be very "toxic" assets.


Speaking to Forbes magazine about the exhibits of the future museum, Aven stated the following:

“I will show paintings, porcelain, ceramics, and Vrubel's majolica. Necessarily Drevina s Udaltsova. Alexander Drevin is essentially the most important Latvian artist".

"I have there (in the future museum - editor's note.), First of all, one outstanding artist is presented - Alexander Drevins. He is better known as Drevin, since he lived in Russia since he was 19. There are almost no paintings of him in Latvian museums. He died in the thirties. under almost the same circumstances as my grandfather. Then there was a massive hunt for Latvians. So for me it is somewhat a personal story. But the fact that there are almost no paintings of him in Latvia is a big disaster", - said Aven in an interview with Snob.

It is worth clarifying that there are works by Drevins in the State Museum of Latvia, and they are available to visitors.

Since the 70s of the last century, paintings and graphics by Alexander Drevin and his wife Nadezhda Udaltsova were actively exhibited in the USSR and abroad. In 1977 - at an exhibition from the collection of G. Costaki in Dusseldorf, in 1979 - the 90th anniversary of the artist was marked by his personal exhibition in the Russian Museum in Leningrad, then - in the Guggenheim Museum in New York (1981-1982), at exhibitions: “Seven Russian Artists. 1910-1930” in Cologne (1984), "Art and Revolution” in Tokyo, Budapest and Vienna (1987-1988), "Russian Avant-garde” in Helsinki (1988), “Artists of the Group “Thirteen”” in Moscow (1989). In 1991, in the halls of the Central House of Artists, it was planned to exhibit over 300 works by two masters (the exhibition did not take place, only a catalog was published). In 2003, a large personal exhibition of Drevin was organized at the Tretyakov Gallery , where about 80 paintings by the master were shown from the collections of the Tretyakov Gallery, the State Art Museum of Latvia, the Russian Museum, the museums of Tula, Novosibirsk, Orel , from the collection of the artist's family...

In the 1930s, Alexander Drevin fell into disgrace. The artist was helped by the Latvian cultural and educational society "Prometheus", which concluded several agreements with the artist and gave money. Many members of "Prometheus" were imprisoned in the 30s, during the Stalinist terror Aleksandr Drevin's fate did not save him either - in 1938 he was arrested and shot at the notorious Butovo training ground for "counter-revolutionary activities." His paintings and drawings were preserved only because his wife, the artist Nadezhda Udaltsova, passed off his works as hers.

What the Stalinist executioners failed to do happened in 2010 - because of family dramas paintings by Alexander Drevin and an unknown number of sheets of his graphics disappeared.

After the death of Alexander Drevin's son, Andrey, in 1997, a storm of deaths fell upon the family. The youngest Drevin dies first. - eight-year-old Ilya, great grandson of Andrey. In 2007, under strange circumstances, Andrey's grandson Petr died. Three women remain in the family - Andrey's widow Veronika Starodubov, his daughter Yekaterina Drevina and the widow of his grandson Petr, Yekaterina Drevina-Vasilyeva. Part of the inheritance of the artist Alexander Drevin is in an apartment on Myasnitskaya Street, where Alexander Drevin and Nadezhda Udaltsova lived, the other part is in a house in Bryusov Lane, where Andrey's widow Veronika Starodubova and Andrey Drevin, himself a famous sculptor, lived.

Veronika Starodubova suffered from Alzheimer's disease at the end of her life, so her daughter had to move in with her mother and take care of her. I must say that the family did not live off the sale of paintings by artists, and Veronika Starodubova and Yekaterina Andreyevna were quite wealthy people. Veronika Vasilievna wrote books about French culture and until 2008 worked as a senior research fellow at the Institute of Art Studies at the Academy of Arts. But all collectors, white and black, as well as dealers selling the Russian avant-garde, knew what kind of wealth was stored in these two houses.

Among the women of the Drevins' family, there was no agreement, especially between the mother of the deceased Petr and his widow. After his death, his daughter-in-law did not let his mother into the apartment on Myasnitskaya. The relationship was already difficult, and after the death of their son, they were completely upset. In 2010, the drama reaches its climax: under very strange circumstances, Petr's mother ends up in a psychiatric clinic. The grandson's widow moves to her grandmother and blocks all contacts between Yekaterina Drevina, who later left the clinic, and Veronika Starodubova. Konstantin Yasinovsky, the husband of Yekaterina Drevina , who pulled her out of the psychiatric hospital, and in whose apartment she settled, when she had nowhere to go, recalls in an interview with Novye Izvestia:

- On April 28, my epoch-making meeting with Yekaterina Viktorovna Vasilyeva, the ex-wife of Petr Drevin, took place. I noticed that furniture was being taken out of the apartment. Before that, I saw that the locks were broken on the doors, a new one was inserted instead of one of them. Seeing that the workers were taking out the furniture, I went into the apartment. A pile of things was piled up in the middle of the room. Vasilieva explained to me that she was planning to make repairs, it was impossible to see Veronika Vasilievna, since, according to the lady, she had Alzheimer's. She also said that Yekaterina Andreyevna would never return from a psychiatric clinic, allegedly it was agreed with the doctors, and she was the only heiress, Yekaterina Drevina. The paintings were still hanging in their places. I managed to get into the apartment one more time, at the very beginning of May. The painting that used to hang on the walls has disappeared. This was before the signing of the power of attorney, which, according to the notary, was drawn up on May 15, 2010.

A few months later, Starodubova dies, and when Yekaterina Andreyevna returns from the hospital, she finds the empty walls of her house.

All these circumstances should have led to the disappearance of valuable works. And so it happened.


Veronika Starodubova did not leave a will or donation, but it turned out that the widow of Petr Drevina (Vasilyeva) had a general power of attorney. Starodubova suffered from Alzheimer's disease, it is difficult to say whether she understood what was happening. But in our country there are always notaries who will confirm what is needed and when needed. After the initiation of the criminal case, the notary said that at the time the power of attorney was issued, the paintings were no longer on the walls. The power of attorney itself was valid from May 15, 2010 until the death of Veronika Starodubova on July 28, 2010. Neither before the issuance of the power of attorney, nor after the death of Yekaterina Drevina (Vasilyeva) had the right to sell the works of Drevin and Udaltsova. Only the granddaughter of artists and her mother, Yekaterina Andreyevna and Veronika Starodubova, had such a right.

- These were the works of Drevin and Udaltsova, and folders with graphics and sketches. Drevin's paintings - 13, both of them - about 20 paintings. There were also three works of the 18th - early 19th centuries along the line of the Choglokovs, the ancestors of Yekaterina Andreyevna along the line of Nadezhda Udaltsova, says the husband of Yekaterina Andreyevna Drevina Konstantin Yasinovsky. Yekaterina Andreyevna herself cannot talk about all these events - too painful a topic raises her already poor health.

In a criminal case initiated in 2012, which has not been closed until today, the police confiscated part of the work from the apartment on Myasnitskaya, where Petr's widow Yekaterina Drevina (Vasilyeva) lived. Paintings, a folder with graphics, an oval portrait of an ancestor, money were seized... Only four years later, Yekaterina Andreyevna Drevina received some of the paintings and graphic sheets back.

- I can list the paintings that disappeared from Bryusov Lane. Until recently, it was believed that the fate of 7 Drevin's works was unknown: a small work, a portrait of Andrey's son, 1926 - 1927, a work that has two titles "Girl (girl) with a towel (Armenia. Study", "Two roe deer" 1931 - 1933 , "Barca"; three more works that Vasilieva recently presented: the pearl "Roe in the Snows", which Veronika Vasiliyevna called "Lanochka", a work called "Forge" and "Horsemen", which has the second name "In the mountains". Today the owner is madame Vasiliyeva's", - Yasinovka believes.

In addition, the fate of several works by Nadezhda Udaltsova is unknown. Two portraits of Andrey's wife Veronika Starodubova, a portrait of Andrey's son, a portrait of his granddaughter, Yekaterina Andreyevna at the age of 10, have disappeared.

The trouble is that the paintings disappeared not only from Bryusov Lane, but also from Myasnitskaya Street. But a criminal case was opened only over the theft in Bryusov.

"The children's portrait of Yekaterina Andreyevna by Udaltsova was at the exhibition in 2014 with the expertise of Zelyukina. By the way, in 2014 Zelyukina did an examination of the Portrait of a Granddaughter, knowing exactly about the entire history of the abductions. We filed a civil suit, but did not receive a clear answer. The gallery wags, says that he does not know where the documents are, therefore, we cannot understand who the work belongs to now. And with the "Portrait of the Artist's Family" we managed to find out that it belongs to the collector Sergey Alexandrov", - says Yasinovsky.

Yekaterina Drevina-Vasilyeva has been silent for many years and refuses any interviews. She continues to live in an apartment on Myasnitskaya, owned by her ex-mother-in-law, and no court decisions or bailiffs can force her to move out. Yekaterina Andreyevna Drevina has been unable to get into the house where her famous grandfather and grandmother lived for 15 years.


In 2015, Riga hosted an exhibition of works by the Russian avant-garde from the collection of the Russian billionaire and art collector Petr Aven. The catalog of the exhibition was prepared by art critic, employee of the Tretyakov Gallery Tatiana Zelyukina, a native of Kaunas, who graduated from school in Riga. The private museum of Aven is also preparing for the opening there, where Drevin's works will also be exhibited.

Examining the catalog of the exhibition, Yekaterina Andreyevna and Konstantin Davydovich Yasinovsky discovered about two dozen works that were hanging in an apartment on Myasnitskaya. The catalog indicates that until 2008-2009 they were in the family collection. At that time, Yekaterina Andreyevna was already living with her sick mother in Bryusov Lane, and her son died at the end of 2007. Yasinovsky says:

"I want to emphasize that in the catalog that we are discussing, under all the works, except for those listed above, their specific history is described - sold by the author, sold by the artist's son, or obtained from such and such a source. The works that we are talking about now are either commented on simply by "Petr Aven", or it is indicated that until 2008 they were kept in the artist's family. Obviously, after Petr's death, Mrs.Drevina (Vasilyeva) traded in the works, who had no legal right to do so.

One of the works in the catalog "In the hut" by Alexander Drevin was owned by the person involved in the criminal case, Yuri Yudin.

"He had receipts for both major work and schedule. Receipts confirm the fact of the transfer of works from Vasilyeva to him, then he handed over the works to the Tretyakov Gallery for examination for a possible acquisition. It turns out that he made it to Aven. Now this painting is in the Aven collection", - Yasinovsky is sure.

Art critic, employee of the Tretyakov Gallery, author of the catalog of the exhibition of the collection of Petr Aven in Riga in 2015, Tatyana Zelyukina indignantly rejects everything that Konstantin Yasinovsky says. And he does not have enough "marital experience" to talk about the history of the Drevins' family, and about what belongs to whom. And we ask awkward and wrong questions:

- You are only interested in these questions! You are not interested in the fact that the collection is preserved, that it is, and that it is admired and valued. It doesn't interest you. You are beginning to be interested in some incomprehensible aspects. Trenches of various orders.

- We are interested in how art treasures got to Riga.

- What are you talking about! You would also ask how Malevich got to London under Soviet rule! Such curiosities are coming straight! Really wonderful!

- Do you keep in touch with the widow of Petr Drevin, Yekaterina Vasilyeva?

- I will not answer you. No comment.

We and our readers are interested in all the moments of this tangled case: where did the paintings of one of the most prominent figures of the avant-garde disappear? On what basis did some of the works come to Riga? And how long have these works left the borders of Russia?

We asked the same questions to Petr Aven. The representative of Alfa-Bank, Mikhail Dyakov, promised to send our letter to Aven's office, but we did not receive any answers.

Three weeks ago we applied to the Ministry of Culture, which issues a permit for the export of paintings that belong to the national treasure from the country. Maria Ivanova, an employee of the press service, accepted the request and promised to give answers within the time frame established by law - in 7 days. But we are still waiting for answers.

Instead, another employee of the Ministry of Culture called the editorial office and, without introducing himself, began to find out what specifically interests us and what the topic of our material is. He also promised to answer our request, but did not specify when. But the questions remain:

On what basis did Drevin's work leave Russia?

Are you talking about temporary removal, or have the works been removed forever?

Have the statutory fees been paid if Forbes estimates the painting was worth half a billion dollars?

And most importantly, who and how made the decision to export the collection of national importance?

For any collection, not only provenance is important - the origin of the painting and the description of all legal owners. Any ugly story, not to mention a criminal case against the seller, and suspicions of the illegality of selling at least one link in the chain of ownership cast a shadow on the entire collection. Any collector of the world level knows this.

And yet - Van Gogh was also a Dutch citizen, but some of the works stored in private collections in France are considered French property and are prohibited from being exported abroad.

And even if, as art critic Zelyukin says, Drevin's works were saved, and they really ended up in a significant collection of the Russian avant-garde, this does not mean that they should be taken out of Russia. At some point, the common good becomes higher than private property. This primarily applies to works of art.

So, Novye Izvestia does not lose hope of getting answers from Petr Aven and the Ministry of Culture. Even if they are very belated ...