The Pricey Art Being Bought At The Russian Taxpayers Expense

Which state companies are buying the most art?        

The Koran, matryoshka, army frescoes and other art objects of national importance; Sofia Savina looks into the budget for official’s aesthetic tastes.

Chandelier in trains, frescos for the army

A lot of state purchases of art are fully legal and bought by state museums, theaters, and music schools. For example, the national museum of the Republic of Tatarstan purchased a Koran for 50 thousand rubles to add to its collection.

In February 2017, the Mariinsky Theater signed a contract for the supply of flutes for its orchestra. One instrument cost 3.9 million rubles. In May of the same year the theater acquired one more flute for 3.6 million rubles. However, this musical instrument sometimes costs millions, as when the Nizhny Novgorod Philharmonic bought a flute for 1 million rubles and a grand piano for 12 million rubles.

Additionally, there have been some interesting buyers of musical instruments. The united sanatorium Sochi (subordinated to the managers of the president of the Russian Federation) in 2013 ordered furniture for 87 million rubles, which included a piano that only cost 1.9 million rubles.

Ministries and state-owned companies also spend funds to decorate their work enviroment. OJSC "Russian Railways" in March 2016 bought "crystal jewelry for interiors," "jewelry made of precious stones" and "original works of artists, graphic artists and sculptors." Where and in which trains the art objects were placed was not reported. The state procurement website lists no technical purpose or cost of the individual goods.

The state company paid 16 million rubles for the whole contract. In addition to art objects, it included barber chairs, manicure sets, carpets and chandeliers. Another purchase by RZhD cost 6.6 million rubles for  "products of artistic stone carvings."

Picture by Daria Akhmedova for Russiangate

The Federal Agency for Youth Affairs in June this year concluded a contract for the "placement of art objects" in the Tavrida forum. The forum was held in Crimea during the summer. The art objects cost 9 million rubles and included a bus stop and several sculptures: a dressing table, an antique column, a gramophone, and a typewriter.

The Voeninform agency of the Ministry of Defense concluded in 2016 three contracts for the production of frescoes with symbols of the Russian Army totalling 6.3 million rubles.

In addition, the Ministry of Defense entered into a contract for the supply of furniture in December 2016 for 66 million rubles, which included four supports for busts costing 202 thousand rubles. It was not reported whose busts were to be installed in the ministry.

The Russian Department of Capital Construction paid 2.8 million rubles for the design of the courtyard for the administrative building. The technical task also proposed installation of a fountain and its landscape.

“Small” pleasures

Sometimes, paintings, sculptures, and tickets are used for diplomatic reasons. The Committee for External Relations of St. Petersburg in April 2016 spent 1.1 million rubles on boxes of Karelian birch with lacquer paintings of panoramic views of the city. According to the documentation, they will be presented to the heads of foreign delegations.

The governor of St. Petersburg also  signed 13 contracts for the supply of "works of art to meet the needs of St. Petersburg" and paintings with views of the city. The total amount of the contracts is 6.6 million rubles.

In 2015 "the Russian Federal Security Service's premium for the best works of literature and art about the activities of the federal security services" cost 7.2 million rubles. There were several nominations for television and radio programs, literature and journalism, music, cinema, visual arts and acting.

The Federal Road Agency also likes the movie about itself, in April 2017, the agency paid 51 million rubles for the creation of a "documentary film about the construction, reconstruction and maintenance of federal roads." The series titled "Activity of Rosavtodor in 2017" consists of 10 parts. Rosavtodor bought the same film last year for 42.5 million rubles.

State companies also like to give their employees theater tickets, with bank subsidiary VTB Insurance purchasing 552 tickets for the performance "Grönholm Method" at the National State Theater for 2.5 million rubles.

Picture by Daria Akhmedova for Russiangate

FSUE Russian Post  bought tickets for a circus performance in 2016 when 589 tickets were bought without a tender and from the sole supplier, LLC Circus of the Brothers Zapashnykh for 1.4 million rubles, "to create favorable conditions for the recreation of employees and their children during the New Year holidays."

Traditional Russian state purchases

In April 2017, Rosoboronexport OJSC commissioned 800,000 rubles for artistic panels with pearl paintings, the subjects being the Moscow Kremlin, the Tsar Cannon and a sketch of pheasant hunting.

The customer creatively approached the description of the desired product. "Artistic part sized 140 * 80 mm with a natural mother-of-pearl surface of blue color, on which the winter landscape is written. The river was not yet covered with ice. The first snow plastered the coast and pine along them (the artists performance) with the use of oil paints,"- was written in the technical assignment. The cost of one such work was 21 thousand rubles.

The presidential manager in 2016 bought a series of paintings with global icons "Singapore. View of Fulletron Hotel," "Borobudur," "Intramuros - Manila Cathedral," "Kuala Lumpur Mosque," "Thatluang Temple" and others. The price of one painting was nearly 127,000 rubles, and together they cost 764,000 rubles.

In the same contract there was also patriotic art, silk handkerchiefs "Gzhel" and "Dymkovskie toys" in the amount of 186,00 rubles. These were all souvenir products for last year's Russia-ASEAN summit (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in Sochi, the procurement documents said.

Most often, officials prefer to spend budgetary funds on samples of traditional Russian culture. For example, in 2016, the Ministry of Culture purchased services to fill their Internet website database of folklore performers and masters of folk art for 1.7 million rubles .

Picture by Daria Akhmedova for Russiangate

In February 2017, the Federal Agency for Tourism purchased paintings made of birch bark with images of traditions and the life of Russian people that cost 496,000 rubles. In April of the same year, the government of the Tver region ordered matrioshkas for 843,000 rubles. The 291 nesting dolls were made of flax and came from one supplier CJSC Tverskie Uzory. The price of one matryoshka was 2.9 thousand rubles.

The administration of Astrakhan purchased the bronze monument "Holy pious Peter and Fevronia of Murom - with pigeons" for the Church of the Savior-Transfiguration for 3.3 million rubles. The apparatus of the People's Assembly of the Republic of Dagestan bought landscapes with Dagestani themes and ornamental vases for 600,000 rubles.

The Managerial Department for the Governor of the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug - Ugra signed a contract for souvenirs worth 4.3 million rubles. Among the purchased goods are miniature sculptures of "mammoths", "plague", "a primitive family", "a reindeer team", "a bear with fish" and bust of Felix Dzerzhinsky.

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