The Value of Eternity
  On June 18, 2007 the art work “Waterloo bridge, Gray Day” by French impressionist Claude Monet had been sold at Christie’s in London for record-breaking sum – 36 million dollars. The year before his “The Grand Canal” had been acquired for 13 million dollars, “Yellow Nude” by Pablo Picasso for 14 million dollars and “Nazi and Lidia” by Henri Matisse for 11 million dollars… About half a century ago “The Times” and Sotheby’s started publishing diagrams demonstrated that art investments yield a huge profit. Firstly, the costs for art objects (including paintings) do not fall but rise in course of time. Secondly, the investment in the art values is a haut ton, it provides the capital with respectability and adds prestige to the investors. The wealthy people of America and the West prefer to invest money in the art, which is the eternal, but in jewelry or real estate as it is accepted in CIS due to the certain circumstances and mentality. The art dealer is a necessary person for the people who wish invest their money in the art values successfully and fairly. Note: An art dealer is the permanent professional buyer and seller of the works of art at the art market. An art dealer is not just a businessman but the well-informed person having various humanitarian interests. In Kazakhstan this profession is an unusual one.   Banu Babayeva – is the only art dealer in Kazakhstan who assists to many famous collectors from all over the world who enrich their collections with magnificent paintings. Looking at a laconic business card with the woman on it (reproduction of the drawing by Valentin Serov) you cannot recognize Banu’s sphere of activity at once as it delicately and inappreciably leads to the thought about the art… Banu’s name is known far beyond Kazakhstan. In the recent past Banu held the post of the Vice-president in CJSC “Kazinvest” of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, she successfully passed Ph.D. defense for the investments. If the customer wishes to acquire a particular painting being available at the art-market for the private art collection and Banu, our countrywoman, attempts a task so this will be crowned with success. Who would think that her strong interest in painting will start with the famous picture “Waterloo bridge, Gray Day” by Claude Monet about six years ago… «Season»: Banu, the principal question is: why and who needs the art dealers?  Banu Babayeva: An art dealer is a professional consulting on acquisition of the works of art. The task is to meet the customer’s needs and ensure the acquisition authenticity. Art dealers deal with not only representation of the customer’s interests in the auction houses (Christie’s, Sotheby’s, MacDougall’s, Koller etc.), but they hold negotiations with the artists’ families, other collectors and the gallery owners. It is a known fact, that the collectors consider their acquisitions as investments and it is the art dealer who is able to provide the whole information on prices for the paintings by a particular artist for the last several years and estimated price rises for the future. As a rule, the customers are the collectors of different level and the services of an art dealer are the beneficial cooperation for them. Many collectors who just started collecting paintings turn to the art dealers to make their own collection. A professional helps on to make a wise choice between the diversity of paintings available at the market basing upon the price, art value and investment. The customer’s confidence and art dealer’s reputation is very important in this sphere. It is known fact that the art market is full of forgeries. An art dealer cannot make a mistake, even with a view to gain money because it may lead to a black list. It is impossible to choose the picture like a thing in the store as, it had to be found around the world. It is a very hard work. Since an art dealer deals with art selling and it is necessary plenty of time to find one painting as the prices sometimes can be just unthinkable. From this perspective cooperation with the art dealer can save the customer’s time. I must just note that today the requirements for the works of art significantly excessed in Russia. The art collector who has the paintings created by the top-level artists (like Sishkin, Levitan, etc.) can be in a search of the pictures by B. Kustodiev or M. Vroubel which are not available at the art market today in principle. There are collectors - the real art admirers and just a painting may be the reason to reconstruct the whole house… Our public is not so pretentious, we are only on the way toward it in Kazakhstan. Sometimes I see how people acquire the painting only because its size and frame color fit well into the interior. It is absolutely wrong attitude and I hope one day Kazakhstan people will really learn to value and enjoy art… … - What are the basic principles for the art dealer?… Banu: The artist’s name has a particular importance in the art-world. A piece of paper belonging to Claude Monet cost great deal of money: firstly, the works of impressionists are worth its weight in gold through the whole art-world; secondly, Monet is the greatest name. However, the cost depends on size, artistic level and technique of a painting (oil painting, graphics). As well, the provenance is very important. This notion involve the history of a painting, its origin, collections where it was kept, exhibitions of the painting and periodic publications where it was presented (periodic publications means various catalogues, books about the artist, etc.). Perfect provenance is a proof of the picture authenticity. -It is opinions that selling of the works of art is absolutely different occupation and it is impossible to learn do it as to verse. Many famous art dealers haven’t got a special education… Banu: Yes, it is. Frequently the art dealer buys a painting for its own money that is why he can become a collector. A part of the paintings belonging to me is in London now and they are sold there. The whole world acquires paintings as it is very profitable and safe investment. Nowadays, most people prefer not to keep money and invest only in real estate or shares but in the works of art. The cost of a valuable picture rises in course of time it cannot go down in value under any economic situation. Paintings give mental and aesthetic pleasure, they bring up and educate… Then, it is always pleasure to realize that love to art is nondecreasing and hope that your collection will be passed on from generation to generation.… -You are specialized in the Russian painting of the late XIX - early XX centuries. Why?  Banu: When the serfdom was abolished in Russia in 1861, the power of talent demonstrated earlier only by necessity became more open and vivid. The court artists were mostly artisans. The abolition of the serfdom allowed artists to create what they wished to see on their canvases. It was so-called “period of sincerity” (remember, for instance, the creative work of Itinerants or associations like the “Jack of Diamonds”, the “World of Art” etc.) when the necessity to create for someone or for something disappeared on itself. There were no the expensive paintings in that times and none of the artists even knew whether his painting would be sold out or he became famous around the world or not. Just realize it is different to be genius and talented artist in one. In my opinion the artists today are talented but genius. Nowadays probably nobody will be able to create something that Leonardo da Vinci had done, for example, his etalon of the human’s right proportions. Just think – his model of the perfect human was calculated mathematically and it was the know-how of the whole epoch! Or take the invention of the ways how the flat subjects get volume in the picture. Today people still use these discoveries. There are no things of this nature in the contemporary fine art. A number of paintings of the late IXX – early XX centuries though start being exhibited only today: the significant price rises for these paintings have occurred within the last few years. I am speaking about paintings that belonged to one certain family for a long time, passed on from generation to generation and now people can admire these paintings. For example, in 2006 I saw the grand-scale painting at the auction – that was the famous “Procession of Ashura” by Richard Zommer which had been presented to Persian shah by Tsar Nicholas II in 1916. Earlier there were no paintings of such scale by this artist at the art market! The works of the Russian painters related to the late XIX - early XX centuries take the second place for prestige value and cost after impressionists. The Russian art is very popular today and people all over the world acquire it. Certainly I’m dealing with the impressionism but it’s complicated kind of art because of expensiveness. Cost for the paintings by Amedeo Modigliani or Pier Ogust Renoir sometimes reaches and even exceeds 50 million dollars. Therefore, as the art dealer I’m interested so far in graphics… -You started interesting in painting from the works of impressionists that later transformed into profession of art dealer. Please, tell more about it… Banu: It was the summer, 2002 when I involved into this wonderful world for the first time through the painting “Waterloo bridge, Gray Day” by Monet. I couldn't say what happened to me but I bought a linen, oil colours and called my good friend, the artist Ruslan Akanayev. He gave me some recommendations concerning a tool set, what colours and in which proportions have to be blended. As soon I was at home I started this Waterloo bridge. And I did not even study at the art school! “Waterloo bridge” was my very first work which is still at my home. Shortly after was “Woman with umbrella”… Besides, I was extremely occupied with my defense of dissertation on economics... You know, I was involved in absolutely different sphere, I was concerned with my career and did not consider the art as the business… Later I started reading various books about art, the artists’ biographies, and history of creation of the paintings. I could stay in the book store for hours, and finally decided do for art professionally, as an art dealer. -Why you do not deal with the Kazakhstan artists?  Banu: Every artist wishes to be recognized in the world. Nowadays, speaking about development of the art market in Kazakhstan and recognition of our artists in the global art world there is no as integration providing popularity as absolute recognizability of a name and high cost of the painting. However the prices are significantly rising. As the art dealer, that is to say as the businessman I cannot consider the painting only by its art value, I always take into account the financial aspect. The notion “art market” having even a word “art” was and remains business. Generally, the cases when our artists go abroad with the home gallery owners who arrange the exhibitions of their works have not art but political background – they coincide with political or economic events. In other words, the people who attend such events are interested in Kazakhstan only on the level of business. Theoretically, the artist’s exhibition has to be an independent event in the cultural life of the country which is not related to politics at all. I would like that Kazakhstan art become integrated into the world art-space. -How would you define the condition and level of “public” interest in Kazakhstan art today? Banu: I’m very concerned about this matter. Currently, the collection of the great Russian artists located in the State Museum of Arts named after A. Kasteev includes paintings which had been transferred to Kazakhstan in 1935-1936 by the State Russian museum and the State Tretyakov Gallery. As well, the gratuitous transfer of the paintings by the foreign artists from Hermitage took place in that time. The only presented post-impressionist work of our museum is the painting of Venetian artist Albert Ferdinand Duprat. The most recent acquisitions of the international museum objects were made by Kazakhstan in the 70’s of the last century. Today we cannot yet speak about real “public” interest, and all the more, the level of development of the private collecting. The society in Kazakhstan do not have the opportunity to improve the level of its culture without daily creative feeding. Both the society and government shall correct the mentality and generate real love to the art. -The art dealers have their own secret “code of honour”… Please, tell about the principle matters.  Banu: The art dealing is an intellectual business. Though each art dealer has its own customers, we constantly communicate and consult with one another concerning originals and forgeries. - What is the special attractiveness of this profession for you?  Banu: First of all this occupation enriches the spirit, besides there exists a certain hazard and unimaginable intensity of emotions. You are seeking a particular painting and analyse which customer will like it as you know their taste and preferences. It is very important for me both that the painting will be in “right hands” and an owner values it. I saw various collections, many of them were very prestigious because of quantity of the paintings, for example more than 500-1000 different paintings. However, there are collections consisting of 30 paintings and they are all of top level. I, for instance, prefer not to sell the paintings having a low level of art value. The principal thing is that when you get into the art world once, there is the probability to stay in it for a long time. The art market captures you wholly. You see a man, an artist, many-sided and inconceivable personality and the epoch behind the painting… Fortunately, the world of art is boundless, it is cosmopolite… We know the names of genius artists who drawn inspiration travelling around the world that is why nowadays their creations belong to all... Text: Elena Vrachevskaya «Season» magazine May, 2008.