Dark shades of art

Galleries>> Corruption • UK/Tajikstan

Published: Monday 30 November -0001

Petro Wodkins posed as an art buyer for the Tajik presidentArt galleries usually don’t get bad press for corruption. But a sting by a Russian artist has shown them in very poor light. Petro Wodkins, who likes to describe himself as a conceptual artist, gained attention early this year with a fake advertising campaign meant to trick fashion-conscious mothers into spending US $30 for a black baby diaper emblazoned with the Giorgio Armani label.

Identifying himself as Petr Fomin, a personal shopper for Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, Wodkins spent over three months telling prestigious London-based art galleries that his “client” was ready to spend millions to present his daughter with a private collection of the best in contemporary art. Rahmon is suspected of widespread graft.

Wodkins has released The Price of Art, a 15-minute film based on his recordings. Some galleries have defended their actions saying the negotiations with “Fomin” were only in the early stages. Wodkins’ spokesperson said, “That they are willing to sell artworks, especially like Ai Weiwei who has stood against authoritarianism, to a dictator is very bad.”

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