Victor Pinchuk Plans New Arts Center for Kiev

By John Varoli - Bloomberg News

Victor Pinchuk, one of Ukraine’s richest men, will build a contemporary-art center in downtown Kiev, with the hope of making the country’s capital a major destination on the global art map.

Pinchuk, 48, said in a Bloomberg interview that the new building will be bigger than his existing PinchukArtCentre, the first private center of contemporary art in the former Soviet Union. The new project will also supplement the regular shows already being held at the center that Pinchuk said has had more than 830,000 visitors since it opened in 2006.

The steel billionaire is one of the world’s leading contemporary-art collectors, owning works by the most expensive living artists such as Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and German photographer Andreas Gursky.

“This new arts center will make Kiev and Ukraine a fantastic place for contemporary art,” Pinchuk said at a show of 20 Ukrainian artists nominated for the first Pinchuk Art Center Prize. A winner will be chosen by an international jury, and announced on Dec. 4 by Hirst. First prize is 100,000 hryvnia ($12,200), and a one-month internship with an international artist.

Pinchuk hopes the new building will be near a Soviet-era sculpture in the form of an arc meant to celebrate Russian- Ukrainian relations. He envisages a multi-functional center with a permanent collection built on, though not limited to, works that he owns. Pinchuk said he’s ready to provide “100 percent” financing for the center.

With a fortune estimated by Forbes to be $2.6 billion, Pinchuk said he’s speaking to the “most important architects in the world” and wants to hold a design competition. While he wouldn’t comment further, he said, “you know their names.”

‘Great Influence’

“If Pinchuk completes this project, then there’s no doubt it’ll have a great influence on the development of art in Ukraine,” said Mykola Zhuravel, a Kiev artist represented in the U.S. by Zorya Fine Art of Greenwich, Connecticut. “I hope it won’t only display artworks by glamorous international artists.”

In April, Pinchuk opened an exhibition of more than 100 works by Hirst, the artist’s largest show. Pinchuk said he bought at Hirst’s solo auction in London in September 2008, when 218 of 223 lots sold for 111.5 million pounds ($199 million at the time); he didn’t say what he bought.

Pinchuk owns “probably half” of the skull paintings in Hirst’s current show at London’s Wallace Collection, the artist said in a Bloomberg interview last month.

In 2007, Pinchuk founded EastOne LLC, an investment company based in London. He built his wealth over the past decade on Interpipe, Ukraine’s biggest producer of steel pipes for oil and gas companies, whose clients include OAO Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas producer.

Pinchuk is one of East Europe’s leading philanthropists. He sponsors campaigns to combat AIDS, and supports Jewish causes such as “Spell Your Name,” a film coproduced with Steven Spielberg about the Holocaust in Ukraine.

(John Varoli writes for Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: John Varoli in Kiev at