Leonid Mikhelson

Collector and founder of Victoria – the Art of Being Contemporary, for the promotion of post-avant-garde Russian art

The CEO of Novatek, Russia’s largest natural gas producer, Mikhelson has used the $9.1 billion fortune he built up during the post-Soviet privatisation of Russia’s energy industry to pursue his interests in contemporary art (and volleyball). His enigmatically named foundation, Victoria – the Art of Being Contemporary, was founded in 2009 to fund the promotion of post-avant-garde Russian art abroad and broaden the domestic audience’s access to theory from the West.

It backed the New Museum’s Ostalgia exhibition, not just with cash but also expertise. Curator Massimiliano Gioni was quoted as noting that ‘without the foundation’s support, the show would have been simply impossible: it’s not exactly easy to borrow works from an artist in Siberia, who has no email and speaks no English’.

Victoria also costaged the recent retrospective of Andrei Monastyrski at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and the Francesco Bonami-cocurated exhibition Modernikon at Turin’s Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo; it has instigated a scholarship for international students to attend the Courtauld Institute, London; and it plans to set up a publishing wing to translate Russian theory to English, and vice versa.