Billionaire buys Russian art before auction

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A Russian metals magnate has stumped up more than £20 million for an art collection owned by the late cellist Mstislav Rostropovich - to ensure the collection stays together and in Russia.

Alisher Usmanov purchased the 450-piece collection days before it was due to be auctioned, paying a “substantially higher” sum than the original £20 million estimate, according to Sotheby’s.

The billionaire, who recently bought a 14.6% stake in Arsenal Football Club, said he intended to hand the artworks over to the state.

Mikhail Shvydkoi, head of Russia’s federal culture agency, said that “for Russian culture and Russia as a whole, all things relating to the name of Mstislav Rostropovich are invaluable”.

The collection of glassware, porcelain and paintings were gathered by Rostropovich and his wife Galina Vishnevskaya.

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