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Billionaire Prokhorov Gives $2 Million to Back Kabakov Art Show

John Varoli, Bloomberg News

April 30 (Bloomberg) – Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is to give $2 million to finance Russia's first retrospective of artworks by its leading postwar artist Ilya Kabakov, the metal tycoon's foundation said today.

New York-based Kabakov, 74, is a founder of the Moscow conceptualist art movement that developed in the Soviet Union even as the government repressed non-official art. In 1989, Kabakov began collaborating with his wife, Emilia.

The Moscow show opens Sept. 15 at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, and runs simultaneously until Oct. 15 at three other locations, including a renovated 1920s bus depot built by one of Russia's foremost modernist architects, Konstantin Melnikov.

''Our foundation is providing about $2 million, which is the lion's share of the financing for Kabakov's retrospective,'' said Natalia Fedianina, spokeswoman for the Norilsk-based Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation. ''Kabakov is Russia's foremost living artist, and one of our foundation's main priorities is to support contemporary art,'' said Fedianina.

The show features more than 150 paintings, drawings and objects, said Emilia Kabakov. At the end of February, Kabakov became Russia's most expensive postwar artist when Phillips de Pury & Co in London sold his painting, ''Beetle'' (1982), for 2.9 million pounds ($5.84 million) on a top estimate of 1.8 million pounds.

Robert Soros

Among the works to be displayed are ''The Toilet'' (1992), from the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent, Belgium; and ''The Life of Flies'' (1992), from the collection of Melissa and Robert Soros in New York.

London-based fashion promoter Dasha Zhukova will also support the exhibition by providing space for the show at her soon-to-open Garage Center of Contemporary Culture located at Melnikov's bus depot, said Emilia Kabakov.

Erica Bolton, Zhukova's spokeswoman, declined to comment, saying it's too early in the project to discuss the details.

Forbes estimates Prokhorov's fortune at $19.5 billion, making him Russia's sixth richest man. Prokhorov, 43, made his fortune as a former owner of OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium.

Since 2007 Prokhorov, 42, has been the president of Onexim Group, a Moscow-based private investment company with $25 billion in assets, said Prokhorov's Web site.

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