MOSCOW -- Private collectors have become key players in Russia's art market, at a time when sanctions and economic woes have pushed culture down the Kremlin's agenda.
Wealthy individuals like Roman Babichev are filling the gap by bringing much-needed cash to support young Russian artists and bring historical works to galleries and museums.
The tradition of private art collectors in Russia precedes even the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution when magnates like Sergei Shchukin and Pavel Tretyakov amassed priceless troves, now in the country's top museums. Today's collectors may not have the same stature, says Pushkin Museum director Marina Loshak, but they are key to developing Russia's art scene.
Loshak told The Associated Press: "Collectors are the big impetus, without collectors there are no galleries and these are the laboratories, the test tube, in which everything happens."