Billionaire Pinchuk Talks of $100,000 World Art PrizeSource: Bloomberg. Author: Katya Kazakina. Published on December 9th, 2009

Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk paused during a walk through New York’s Museum of Modern Art yesterday to talk about his new art prize, which starts next year and awards $100,000 to an artist 35 or younger.

“Financial crisis is the moment of truth for real collectors and true artists,” said Pinchuk, who was accompanied by the art dealer Jay Jopling and MoMA director Glenn Lowry at the opening of a new exhibition by Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco. “That’s why we do the prize: to discover new talent.”

Pinchuk, 48, began to collect contemporary art five years ago, tapping the fortune he built through Interpipe, Ukraine’s biggest producer of steel pipes for oil and gas companies. He is a major buyer of works by Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, Andreas Gursky and others.

The Future Generation Art Prize, inaugurated by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, will be awarded every two years. Besides the top prize, an additional $20,000 will be allotted to artist-in- residency programs for as many as five other prize winners. Some of the artists Pinchuk collects will serve as mentors for the prize winners.

Pinchuk said he wanted to recreate the democratic approach he had experienced as a jury member for the art competition organized by Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki company, which was open to all applicants.

“I was really impressed,” he said. “So we decided to take a risk too. We understood that the prize had to be launched in the international art capital. So it was a choice between London and New York.”

Schnabel Decor

He selected New York’s Gramercy Park Hotel, where the lobby and lounges are decorated by artist Julian Schnabel.

Artists from “every continent and every country” can apply online, starting Jan. 18, 2010, Pinchuk said. Works by 20 shortlisted artists will go on view at the PinchukArtCentre in Kiev in October 2010. The jury will announce the winners in December 2010.

The new prize’s board will include Pinchuk, four “mentor” artists, collector Eli Broad, Elton John, Miuccia Prada, MoMA director Lowry and Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum.

“First, I got the idea to have a national prize for Ukrainian artists three to four years ago,” said Pinchuk, clad in a gray suit and an open-collar shirt. “We launched the prize a year ago.”

The prize is an important step in forging the Ukrainian national identity, said Olga Sviblova, director of the Moscow- based Multimedia Art Museum, who is not involved in the award.

Identity Check

“It’s not only about Pinchuk’s passion for art,” she said in an interview in New York yesterday. “Almost 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia and the former republics are struggling to develop their identities. Contemporary art is a crucial factor in this tortuous process.”

About 1,100 Ukrainian artists applied online for the national prize. The award ceremony took place on Dec. 4. The winner, Artem Volokitin, received the $12,500 award from Hirst, who flew into Kiev for the evening, Pinchuk said. Ukrainian heavyweight boxer Wladimir Klitschko awarded the People’s Choice Prize.

“Pinchuk is responsible for making art fashionable in Ukraine,” said Oleksandra Kuzhel, head of the country’s state committee for regulatory policy and entrepreneurship, at the party celebrating the prize in New York. “He inspired other oligarchs to start exhibiting their collections. It has become prestigious. His international exhibitions advertise Ukraine around the world.”

“For me it’s very important to turn Kiev into one of the main centers of contemporary art in the world,” Pinchuk said. “There is New York. There’s London. And there will be Kiev. Everyone will come and say, ‘Wow!’”