Art collector Margarita Pushkina discusses her extensive private collection, why she loves the process of collecting and what Russian contemporary art has to offer

Margarita Pushkina, founding director of Cosmoscow International Contemporary Art Fair, represents Russia’s entrepreneurial new generation. An esteemed art collector with an intriguing, varied collection of Russian and international works, Pushkina has been at the forefront of the global art scene for over two decades. She sat down with Selections to discuss her on-going fascination with art and her desire to shine the spotlight on promising Russian artists.

When did you start collecting art and what prompted you to start doing so?
I started collecting art in the 1990s. I’ve always been fascinated by art, and I studied art history at college. When I became the managing director of Kit Finance Private Banking, I oversaw the creation of their corporate contemporary art collection. During that process, I became very eager to understand contemporary art, so I started talking to artists, curators, collectors and gallery owners. By asking questions, I better understood my own preferences, and I ended up making my first purchases. What drives me most is the chance to meet the actual artists and talk to them. By collecting art, I am supporting the artists with whom I have a connection.

Can you tell us a little about your collection? How big is it? What kind of art do you collect? Which works are your favourites?
I collect works by contemporary artists, both Russian and international. I cannot say how big my collection is, partly because the works are spread between my country house, my Moscow apartment, my office and various other locations. But collecting is much more important than the collection itself: I like the process. As for my favourite works, I can name a few that surround me in my everyday life and awaken feelings in me each time I look at them. Among Russian artists, I love works by Pavel Pepperstein, Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe and Sergey Sapozhnikov, and, among the international ones, I favour Tracey Emin and Evan Penny.

Do you exhibit your artworks? If so, where do you usually hold exhibitions? Do you loan out pieces to museums and art galleries and, if so, which ones?
I loan works if I receive a request to do so. One of the latest exhibitions in which I took part was held at Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. It was called Personal Choice and featured works from personal collections. I loaned the museum a work by Evan Penny called Female Stretch, Variation #2, in addition to Pavel Pepperstein’s 2007 Skyscraper Black Square (Malevich Tower), from the Project City Russia series. This work has travelled a lot, and it’s been included in group exhibitions at the Tate Modern in London and New Museum in New York, among others.

Do you belong to any art organisations? Which ones?
In 2010 I established Cosmoscow, which is still the only international contemporary art fair in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and I’m excited that this year we’re presenting the fair’s fourth edition. Contemporary Russian art has a lot to offer the world, and we are striving to help raise awareness of Russian and CIS artists, in addition to creating a platform for international galleries and artists to be seen in Russia. I hope that what we do helps integrate Russian art into an international context.

In previous editions we attracted 34 international and Russian galleries representing works by more than 130 contemporary artists. We’ve had over 14,000 visitors. This year, as part of the non-commercial programme in the fair, we will show a curated exhibition of major artworks from private collections, Collector’s Eye, and we will hold a charity auction, Off White, in partnership with Christie’s, to benefit the Naked Heart Foundation, a children’s charity organisation based in Russia.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Collectors Issue #38, pages 56-61.