Modernism as Passion


Nina Bereznitskaya. Every collection is a history of some passion. Vladimir Ovcha- renko, whose collection MMOMA showed a year ago, has a passion for passion. Now, tell us about yours.
roman babichev. From childhood I have been making forays in different directions: astronomy, theatre, until I became interested in art. In 1975 I happened to bump into the exhibition in the Beekeeping Pavilion in VDNKh. For me it was akin to an explosion. I had a strong desire to possess things like this, but I was a student with no money. When I started to earn money I could realize my dream.

NB. What motivated you? What was your goal and how has it transformed in the course of time?
RB. First I wanted to create an environment to exist in. Then I wanted more and more. When I started studying the archives of heirs, there were piles of works of museum quality available. Now everything is sold out.

NB. Yet you have works from the late 20th century as well. With whom among contemporary artists do you feel affinity? 
RB. Over the course of many years I have attended exhibitions but haven’t yet got a chance to come across something thatI have really fallen for. Much in contemporary art has a transitory appeal, like an anecdote. I am interested in works that extend over time. 

NB. Are the principles of collecting changing today? There are not many young collectors that we hear about.
RB. The older generation grew in ascetic times and were striving to create another world at home, a form of escapism. This is why they still continue amassing important collections. The younger generation lives more freely without saddling itself with collections of any kind. We still haven’t managed to cultivate within ourselves a tradition of decorating our home with not only paintings but also antique objects. 

NB. Your project features a large curatorial group: Nadya Plungyan, Valentin Dyakonov, Maria Silina, Alexandra Selivanova, Olga Davydova. How do you communicate? 
RB. I sought people with whom to collaborate for the exhibition and the book for a long time. We discussed it with Borovsky. Then Nadya arrived and established a strong collective of authors, involving Dyakonov, Selivanova, Silina. They have a daring outlook, they enter into polemics with those signed up to the traditional approach to art history. I have a more conservative perspective on the avant-garde, considering it a movement with limited timeframes. My curatorial group attempts to elaborate new conceptual premises for it. 

NB. Is it possible to say that the collection is completed and you can draw a line underneath it?
RB. Yes, now it is difficult to add anything to the collection. I feel that the process of collecting is close to its end. Less and less now do I encounter works from the 1920s. The end of the century seems more promising: early Pivovarov, Zlotnikov, Krasnopevtsev, Weisberg, Belenok. I am trying to look closely at very young painters and graphic artists. I hope one day our Russian Bacon will emerge, even if it is not me who finds them. 

DI #4-2017


September 18, 2017