Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, head of aluminum, energy and telecom conglomerate Renova Group is the owner of the world’s largest collection of Fabergé eggs, having purchased a vast collection in 2004 before it was due to go under auction at Sotheby’s in New York, in a bid to keep it within Russia. The exact value of the transaction is unknown; however the collection as a whole is estimated to be worth in the region of 3 billion Russian rubles ($90,000,000 USD).
Now this collection of work, manufactured by the renowned tsarist jeweler House of Fabergé, is to be on permanent display in St Petersburg in the newly renovated Shuvalovsky Palace. “We are now witnessing the emergence of a new generation of museums in our country,” Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at the opening ceremony in November. “These are private museums, financed by our citizens, our philanthropists.” St Petersburg’s city centre is well known for its huge number of palaces – so many, in fact, that the city government simply cannot reasonably afford to keep them all maintained, which is why certain have found themselves up for sale to private buyers, including Shuvalovsky.
Now known as The Fabergé Museum, the palace was renovated at a cost of 1.2 billion rubles ($36.7 million) and was funded by Vekselberg (the owner of the collection)’s foundation. It features over 4,000 artworks from the late 19th and early 20th Century including nine extremely rare, ornate imperial Fabergé eggs previously owned by the Tsarist Romanov family.
Shuvalovsky Palace is situated on the Fontanka River in downtown St. Petersburg. Built in the late 18th Century, it was inhabited by the Vorontsov family until the end of the 19th Century and has been a location ever since where the high society of the city gather for extravagant balls. Inside the palace there are a number of grand halls, namely the White Hall; the Blue, Gold and Red Rooms; and the Knights’ Hall. After the October Revolution of 1917, the Palace was nationalised, and from 1919 to 1925 it housed the Museum of life which exhibited Western European paintings, collections of porcelain, glass and carved bone. In the 1920s a huge part of the collection was transferred to the State Hermitage and the Russian Museum where it remains to this day.
The Fabergé exhibit officially opened its doors to the public in December 2013, and is a fantastic excursion for any art lovers visiting the city.
Kristi Rorison is Director of Outgoing Business at IntoRussia.