Art Collector Anatol Pedan

Does anyone collect something strange to oneself?

You know, yes.  And there are many such people. It’s not like it is something strange to themselves, but something that is not close. Although, it might be rare, prestigious, and status-enhancing. These are probably not the best works of a certain author and not even the subject the person would like to see hanging on one’s wall. You know, such as “Beheading of St. John the Baptist”. But even at the Christie’s Russian Art Sale one can hear people saying: “That one tycoon does have it, but I don’t...”

This is not my kind of approach. All the works in my collection were chosen by a single principles: do I like it or not. But, of course, there are works which I want to see daily, the other ones I only take out once per 5 or 10 years, put them on the wall for a while, get some emotional boost and then put them back in the storage.

I do not collect art by periods either. Well, how was my collection shaped to the look it shows in the exhibition at the Latvian National Museum of Art? Just like many other important decisions in my life, this understanding came to me in the morning. Usually, right when I wake up, I already have certain thought in my head: ‘I have to do this and that”. And one fine day I suddenly realized that my collection turns into a single chain stretching from 1830s to 1980s, how I call it – 150 years of Russian art.

Aleksei Yupatov. Duke Aleksander Nevsky. 1944. Coloured ink on paper, author’s technique. Collection of Anatol Pedan

I can’t explain why it happened this way. I have only collected what I liked. I probably could have purchased something from earlier period, from 18th or early 19th century. I even had the works like this, but I let them slip out of my hands because I didn’t feel the same right vibe which I get from later period works.

Why have you decided to exhibit your collection at the Latvian National Museum of Art, not at a gallery?

In fact, everything comes from deep inside, from some sort of root impression. I remember my mom taking me to the Museum of Art for the first time when I was 6. So, I climbed up the steps, entered inside, and there was my first impression: pillars, golden stucco works, and this special scent, scent of Hermitage, scent of the museum. I am quite a sensitive person, and probably this affected my consciousness a lot. Even my parents probably didn’t realize what sort of shock to me it was. Since then the Museum for me is the Temple of art from the capital ‘T’, something incredible. To have my collection exhibited at the Latvian National Museum of Art is the great honour to me, and I am very grateful to the Museum for its confidence in my collection. I will never forget it.

Vase Jurmala. 1930s. Porcelain, overglaze painting after S. Vidberg’s sketch, gold. Workshop Burtnieks, Riga. Collection of Anatol Pedan

I also entrust the restoration of my paintings to the museum professionals only, because my single experience with so called ‘private restorer’ was very unsuccessful and I have never repeated it. I am also glad to have met restorers of paper, engravings and aquarelles. It’s an incredibly difficult task, even more difficult than restoring oil paintings. On my side, I always try to share, and I do share the information from my archives with museum staff, and I also provide works from my collection for thematic exhibitions at the museum.

Let’s go back to your collector’s career. So, mid 90-ties...

In the mid 90-ties we can call it already quite a professional life: collaboration with art galleries and antiquarian salons, every day trips around the city and not only in search of new works. There were cases when I went out for 5-6 times a day to take a look at something, to exchange or to purchase. I had made a good exchange fund already in Soviet times, when it cost less. Back then, it became clear to me that the works I have make an entire picture. There is amount of works of certain periods and groups that can make collection.

Boris Bilinsky. Easter. 1920s. Oil on canvas. Collection of Anatol Pedan.

At the same time I was doing the research all the time. For example, there is the story of how I have got the work of Boris Bilinsky “Easter”. I purchased it in an art salon in Riga. Its owners had found it in an apartment, where it was hanging at the wall, all covered in dust. In the early 1990ties, I was examining the catalogue of Nikita Lobanov-Rostovsky and saw the black and white self-portrait of Boris Bilinsky. It just stayed in my memory. And, after so many years, it evoked such an association in me: “I have seen this face somewhere.” I came home and struggled to remember... and – yes! I opened the catalogue and there it was! Same signature: Б.Б. (Boris Bilinsky). Same face. He portrayed himself grotesquely in Russian traditional manner among merry Easter crowd. >>