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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Magnate Says Art Trove Will Go to State

Itar-TassShvydkoi greeting Vishnevskaya at a news conference Tuesday to discuss the return of Rostropovich's art collection.
Billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who paid well over $40 million to stop Mstislav Rostropovich's art collection from being sold abroad, said Tuesday that he would donate the artworks to the Russian government.

"Firmly and irreversibly, it will belong to the state," Usmanov said on state television. "In this case I have no sense of being the owner. I think we will find some way to accommodate ... this [art] in our motherland."

The collection of the late cellist and conductor Rostropovich and his wife, Galina Vishnevsakaya, was to go up for auction Tuesday in London in one of the art market's most anticipated events of the year.

With 450 or so pieces, including porcelain and paintings by artists such as Ilya Repin, the collection was expected to fetch from $25 million to $40 million -- or even more, given the current high level of interest in Russian art.

Sotheby's canceled the auction Monday, however, after the entire collection was bought by Usmanov. Sotheby's said he paid "substantially higher" than the $40 million price tag for the collection.

Russia's top culture official, Mikhail Shvydkoi, said at a news conference in Moscow that Usmanov offered to pay 25 percent to 30 percent more than the pre-auction estimated prices.

He also said his agency had "presented some guarantees to Sotheby's that this transaction would be in the interest of the Russian Federation."

He did not elaborate on the guarantees, but said the Russian government itself did not try to buy the collection because it did not have sufficient funds.

Vishnevskaya has said that, before her husband's death, the couple decided to sell some of the collection to help support their charitable foundations.

She said Tuesday that she decided to sell it entirely because its upkeep and insurance was too costly.

Reuters, AP