Much like his entry into Georgian politics this past October, insiders unceremoniously mocked Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili when he made his initial foray into the highbrow world of international modern art some five years ago. Today nobody’s laughing.
An eerily vibrant butterfly piece by British conceptual artist Damien Hirst greets visitors in the reception area of the 55-year-old tycoon’s Tbilisi business center, while the dark and moody “Einzelne Hauser” (“Individual Villas”) by early 20th century Austrian figurative painter Egon Schiele looms from a central wall behind Ivanishvili’s desk.
One of the world’s richest men, and the latest in a line of moguls who have tangled with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Ivanishvili’s political ambitions have caused a media sensation in Georgia and stirred interest abroad. His talent for creating buzz in the art world is less explored, but, for those following his political trajectory, his artistic proclivities are every bit as noteworthy. In both cases, tenacity appears to be a major influence.
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Molly Corso is a freelance reporter and photojournalist based in Tbilisi.