The Art of Luxury

Courtesy of Millionaire Fair
Besides bright colors and abstract design, the Blue Man Group and Wassily Kandinsky's paintings will now have one more thing in common: Moscow's third annual Millionaire Fair, which runs Thursday to Sunday at Crocus Expo.

With the performance and the paintings, organizers are making a bid to give the event a touch of culture after the international press repeatedly derided it as an extravaganza of bad taste and conspicuous consumption.

This year the Millionaire Fair plans to bring in works by Kandinsky from a private Swiss collection, while the Blue Man Group (pictured) is to perform at Thursday's invitation-only opening gala, the fair's managing director Yelena Kudozova said from her office at Independent Media, one of the organizers of the fair and the publisher of The Moscow Times, which is to present its new Moscow Dining Guide book and host a happy hour at the fair.


Courtesy of Millionaire Fair
The Millionaire Fair, first hosted in Amsterdam, is in its third year in Moscow.
To add to the cultural resonance, Phillips de Pury & Company plans to hold a charity auction of contemporary Russian art at the event. The funds are to be donated to various Russian cultural organizations, such as museums, to be used for restoration and appraisals.

"Since the first fair [in 2005] we have been making an effort to make this a more cultured event," said Kudozova. "Finally this year we are seeing the results of our work."

Also, in the midst of a world boom in contemporary art, led especially by countries such as China and Russia, the amount of art at the Millionaire Fair has increased because of consumer demand, Kudozova said.

"Art is becoming more and more popular among the Russian elite," she said.

All the same, the demand to see and buy the novel, the kitschy and the downright tacky still runs strong among all classes. Last year 38,500 guests came to the event; this year organizers are expecting 45,000.

Those wanting to see the old standbys of the exhibition should not be disappointed. From $30,000 portraits made entirely of precious stones to 50,000-euro full-length leopard-skin coats, the flotsam of a Russia awash in oil money is still to be found.


Courtesy of Millionaire Fair
Bugatti's million-dollar Veyron 16.4 was just one of the many luxury cars and SUVs featured at last year's auto salon.
Besides the fact that Russia's millionaire population is estimated at more than 100,000, and that the event is targeted at the business and cultural elite, ordinary Russians have come to the event in droves in the event's past two years.

"Ordinary people want to get to learn about this way of life. They want to feel for a moment like a millionaire," said Kudozova.

"The middle class is also coming for purchases. Both the husband and wife are working now and so maybe they can't afford a car here, but they can definitely buy a watch."

Along with a growing base of consumers, the vendors are also getting into the event in a way they haven't before.

"Vendors are becoming more savvy and creative," said Kudozova. "The sellers are becoming more and more sophisticated. They are designing items with very small production runs so that they are truly unique."

Kudozova said vendors were investing more money this year into presentation.


Courtesy of Millionaire Fair
A diamond-encrusted GoldVish phone.
"The stalls this year will be true palaces," she said.

"They get it now. They understand that they are here to create an atmosphere of fun."

Elgem, which makes portraits from precious stones, plans to place completed works such as "The Birth of Venus," "Ducks in a Pond," "Eastern Dancer" and "Jesus Christ" on the walls of its stall.

"Russian clients like original, strange and unique things," said Viktoria Mikhalchenko of Elgem. "This is our first year at the fair and I think we will be very successful because we are in a niche market. It is very exotic and people haven't see it before," she added.

"We're still debating whether to put up the 'Gospodin V.V. Putin' portrait."

What this means for the growth of culture at the event remains to be seen.

The Millionaire Fair is open to the public from Nov. 23 to 25, noon to 10 p.m, in Pavilion 3, Halls 12 and 13, at Crocus Expo Center, between the 65th and 66th kilometers on the Moscow Ring Road, Krasnogorsk, 232-3200. Tickets can be bought at www.topticketline.ru, www.millionairefair.ru and at the Crocus Expo Center's ticket desks. Tickets are 30 euros per day. www.millionairefair.com.

The Moscow Times Moscow Dining Guide book presentation is on Nov. 23 and 24, 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., in Hall 12, area B129, with a happy hour and gifts.