The Ministry of Artistic Affairs
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

While Russian businessman Alexander Tarantsev and wife, supermodel Yulia Vizgalina, were out of town last week, armed burglars stormed his walled compound outside Moscow and made off with a stated $50 million in art, other valuables, and cash. The heist included paintings by 19th-century Russian artists including Ilya Repin, Ivan Shishkin, and Ivan Aivazovsky. The four gun-toting masked robbers struck very early in the morning on January 13 and tied up Tarantsev's security guards, Ria Novosti reports.

The burglary was reported by Taransev's holding company, Russian Gold, which owns jewelry stores as well as interests in jewelry production, biotechnology, and hotels. (Vizgalina, meanwhile, is a famed model in Russia, appearing most recently in this year's Pirelli calendar.) Investigators said that $20,000 in cash was stolen from a safe on the property, and that diamonds and antiques were also taken.

A painting by Ivan Shishkin fetched $1.7 million at Sotheby's first Russian art sale in London last June, and the artist's auction record was set at Christie's in 2008 when "The Forest Clearing" achieved a price of $3.2 million. Bonham's sold an Aivazovsky painting for $150,000 last month, while works by Repin, a prolific portraitist, appear frequently on the auction market, with a painting of his daughter selling for $273,000 at Sotheby's in June 2009.

As reported on