Russia launches world's richest art prize in London with 420k pot
In a bid to revitalise the out-of-favour style of figurative art, Russia has launched the world's richest art prize in London, offering a staggering 500,000 euro pot.
While the cash is coming from that great land in the east it's not from some football club owning oligarch or petroleum Tsar, but the taxpayers of Ulyanovsk, a humble region on the Volga River a couple of hours drive from Moscow.
The Plastov Prize will be split into 21 categories, each offering 500,000 to 1million roubles.
There will be no overall winner, but in a very Socialist manner several equal first places will share the 420,000-pound prize money
It dwarfs the previous richest art prizes, the Gulbenkian - worth 175,000 pounds - and the US-based ArtPrize worth 153k pounds. By comparison Britain's most notable art prize, the Turner, offers 25,000 pounds to the winner, among total prize money of 40,000 pounds.
With backing from the regional government of Ulyanovsk, the birthplace of Lenin, Russia has made another foray into London's domestic art market with the announcement.
The awards have been running for two years in Ulyanovsk and attracting about 500 entrants annually, but by throwing it open to the international community and with such a generous endowment the prize may put the region on the map.
"We are the only region in Russia that has as its strategy the development of art. This means that we recognise culture as the main driver of our development, not aviation, not cars, not nuclear power, but culture as the main driver for our development," the Mirror quoted Sergey Morozov, the governor of Ulyanovsk, as speaking at the launch at the MacDougall Art Auctions Gallery in St James, Central London.
"You won't find a territory that has brought so many talented people into this world," Morozov said.
He added that the community and government of Ulyanovsk believed figurative painting, a staple of Russian culture, needed to be supported and revitalised.