The Financial Time’s Peter Aspden has lunch with Evgeny Lebedev who comments on his countrymen and their penchant for buying art:
I ask if he collects major art works, and he is once more down on his compatriots. “No, I collect a little bit, but it has become a status thing. A lot of Russians, they buy boats and aeroplanes to prove their status, and then they realise they can be a tiny bit more sophisticated by buying expensive art: you can buy a Freud, or a Bacon. But most people see through that.”
Some people might see this as a thinly veiled reference to the other Russian: Abramovich reportedly bought a very expensive Freud and a very expensive Bacon for Zhukova last May. I ask Lebedev if he had been quoted correctly when criticising Abramovich for his lack of openness.
“It’s what I said at the beginning of our conversation – what we tend to import are these murky, shady individuals that no one knows anything about because they keep themselves to themselves, for whatever reason: insecurities, or they have something to hide. It creates an image of us as a closed, impenetrable society – God knows, we had that in the Soviet Union days, everyone thought there were bears in the street, and it’s still that way.”
There was a lot of paranoia around, I say.
He nods. “I mean come on, who needs bodyguards in London? If you have 50 bodyguards around you, you attract attention. It is another status thing.” For some reason my mind wanders to the fate of poor Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned after a sushi lunch in Piccadilly in 2006. Too many episodes of Spooks perhaps.
Lunch with the FT: Evgeny Lebedev (Financial Times)