The Blackest Square
A sum of one million dollars for the acquisition of the painting was provided by Vladimir Potanin, a well-known businessman. Despite its mysterious origin in a bag of potatoes in the provincial town of Samara in 1993, and the fact that the market of Russian avant-garde is overfilled with fake copies, even sophisticated experts still havent expressed any serious doubts about the authenticity of the items from this collection. Nevertheless, there is every reason to believe that several sketches, photographic images, Malevichs own manuscripts and the broken pieces of the architectone have been lost. This detective story seems to have been predetermined by the great master Malevich himself. For example, the reverse of the painting contains the date 1913. Despite the fact that the first Black Square is dated 1915, this dating implicitly serves to show that the painting is quite authentic. In the late 1920s Malevich, forgeing his own biography, intentionally pre-dated his works.
On the 22 of January 2002 the Russian Ministry of Culture declared the Black Square as being an exclusively significant cultural asset, thus prohibiting its eligibility for being sold or exported. On the 13 of April the collection of Inkombank was put up for auction at Gelos auction house. At the sales the Moscow Museum for Modern Art purchased Self-portrait and The portrait of wife. Meanwhile, the state has exercised its privilege to acquire exclusively significant cultural assets. In such a way, the Black Square has finally found its present position in the Hermitage, and Mikhail Piotrovsky has a special programme of establishing a section dedicated to twentieth century art at the Hermitage already, in which the Black Square will be exhibited among such items as Composition IV by Kandinsky, The Dance by Matisse and The Three Graces by Picasso.
However, the former owners of the Black Square, the bankers belonging to the epoch of primary accumulation, were not fully conscious of the value of the items they possessed. Nevertheless, the art market experts named prices ranging from 15 to 25 millions of dollars, provided the picture is going to be sold on the western market. Vladimir Potanin, a media tycoon and the owner of the famous Norilsk Nickel, used the opportunity to improve his international image. The progressive oligarch was installed as a trustee of the Guggenheim Museum, in return for donations of at least one million dollars a year. The Financial Times stressed ironically, While millions of their countrymen suffered collapsing living standards, declining health and increasing alcoholism, a few made enough money to join the ranks of the worlds richest men. Finally, as long as it is owned by the state, the Black Square is eligible to be transported across the borders and be exhibited at any affiliate branch of Guggenheim all around the world. Or, for example, in the Hermitage rooms at Somerset House.