The last interview of billionaire George Gens

Shortly before his death, billionaire George Gens talked with Forbes Life about collecting, sports and raising children.
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A few days before his sudden death in Kamchatka, on the eve of the opening of the exhibition "Sculptors and the Livre d'artiste" at the Pushkin Museum, where the books of artists from the collection of the businessman are exhibited, billionaire Georgy Gens gave an exclusive interview to Forbes Life. The conversation began with the opening exhibition at the Pushkin Museum, which features twenty-two editions of the livre d'artiste, books by artists, fifteen sculptors, including Alberto Giacometti, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Mimmo Paladino, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Auguste Rodin, Christo, Osip Zadkin. In addition to the publications of the livre d'artiste, sculptures of these masters are exhibited. The basis of the exposition consists of publications from collections of collectors Georgy Gens and Boris Fridman.

George, why do you collect books of artists, livre d'artiste?

It's like asking why go to the conservatory, when you can listen to records. Especially since the livre d'artiste is not a book for reading, but an original graphic. Each book is an original project, with its own paper, design, publisher, artist, printer. This is a separate genre. The entire print run - 150 copies - was signed by the artist and publisher. I collect the most interesting. Livre d'artiste should be in good condition, in the original box.

Ten years ago I saw Casanova's Memoirs with Dali illustre Casanova in the genre of the livre d'artiste and told my friend Boris Fridman how I liked it. Boris, a passionate collector of the livre d'artiste, is convinced that this is the most interesting of all kinds of art. To create lithographs of such books for the artist is a huge and almost free work. It really is the pinnacle of mastery, pure art.

Now Boris is my adviser and curator of my collection. In my opinion, Boris is one of the best specialists in the world. He oversees the exhibition, produces catalogs. At me all the same the basic employment is business, and at Boris - already a collecting.

Are you competing?

Since books for me are mostly bought by Boris, I can not even surpass his meeting.

But you already have the sixth exhibition in the Pushkin Museum.

Collector is pleased to exhibit his collection. It's nice to realize that what's interesting to you is interesting to a large number of people. I once was on a visit, where a famous jazz player, Professor Igor Bril played jazz with his French counterpart. They took turns sitting at the piano. And it was evident how both enjoyed their game and the reaction of their colleague.

The exhibition presents works from my and from the collection of Boris. By tradition, we do not say where.

Now Boris and I plan to structure my meeting more. We will discuss how to move forward: to collect, for example, all livre d'artiste Picasso or the whole of Dali. While the collection developed like this: collect the most important books on the market. But since I was once a mathematician, I want to set my collection a slightly more precise structure, to understand what from the existing set to pay a little more attention, and what is slightly less.

Simultaneously, do you collect painting?

Yes, look, the drawing of Picasso hangs, here's the beautiful work of Serebryakova. There is a work of my friend, the Georgian artist Iane Pertzkhalashvili.

There is Tyshler, the work of Makarevich, a large collection of Konchalovsky. In the field of painting, I am a less professional collector - I buy only those works that I know where to hang. There is almost no reserve. Everything I like hangs on the walls.

Here you have on the rack two Olympic torches. Yours?

With one I fled to London, the other my son Philip in Korea. According to the rules, each participant of the ceremony runs a piece of distance. Then from the torch they release gas and give it to memory. This is a perfectly organized event, which gives a feeling to everyone: I am a great athlete. At a distance of 200 m, the timing is set at 5 minutes. I ran, but they stopped me, asked more slowly. But I think, all the same, I slipped through this 200 m per minute.

Write that you are engaged in karate, kite surfing, downhill skiing, horse riding, piloting an airplane. This is all true?

I do not carry the plane right now, but I have a flight license, which I honestly received after studying at a flight school with an instructor. Now I plan to restore this story. I got the rights to fly, for example, in Alaska or on uninhabited islands. This year is unlikely, but in the next I want to implement these plans. To do this, it takes at least a week to restore skills with an instructor.

Like all my hobbies, it started out by accident. I broke my leg on the ski slope, and the doctors said that I would not be able to ride for a week. And somehow I took it so that in a week I'll get on skis. But two weeks later on my question, when it is already possible, they answered that in six months. From the point of view of formal logic, they were right, but if I knew this at once, I would go to Moscow. Since I had nothing to do, I began to take private lessons from a helicopter pilot. We drove our friends to different slopes, flew to the valley, flew to dinner. I flew like myself, but next to me sat a professional instructor. When everything is easy, everyone can fly, but sometime something goes wrong, skill is shown.

When I drove the plane and flew quite a lot myself, by stupidity a dangerous moment arose. There was low cloud cover, and I trained the flight in a straight line, dived into the cloud and went too high, being a little closer than I wanted to the big plane that was setting in Bykov.

I threw the karate now. I studied it from 51 to 61 years, ten years. I did some movements quite strongly, but not properly enough, and something kept hurting all the time. Suddenly I thought, what will happen in ten years? The person that I will be in ten years, did not order myself problems.

Have you experienced firsthand how Eastern practices change consciousness?

I felt good when I was engaged. I turned off the phone and was not distracted by anything, it was very useful.

And how did you come to this in 51? Right now everyone in the triathlon is mad.

My daughter is doing jumping. When at competitions she knocked down an obstacle or something happened that was not right, she lost her breath, and this interfered with the performance. And I had an idea to train her breathing with the help of martial arts. My friend, the chief judge in karate in Russia, introduced us to the teacher Alexander Dukhovsky. We started studying with her daughter, but she literally left in a couple of weeks. It turned out that it was physically impossible to pull something else. And I continued to study. I like it.

I am a CCM on cruising yachts, but I like the sail more. I love water and everything connected with it. Water skiing, windsurfing. It is mine. True, I have not learned much yet, but I will learn more.

I like to study. I always did something. That Sambo, then boxing, then freestyle wrestling, then water tourism, then mountain tourism, sailing.

But I'm not a professional athlete. I feel sorry for spending much time on sports, it's better to read books.

Since school years, I have formed a rule: 200 pages a day. I remember the strong impression made by Montaigne's "Experiments," which I read on the fifth year of the university, with philosophical arguments about death, about life. Thanks to Montaigne, my fear of death or level of danger fell sharply. Actually, I and my whole family read everything, including forbidden literature. I remember how Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Corps got to our house.

Do you have a close relationship with children? Opposite your table is the portrait of your daughter. And the son does work at the next table.

Philip independently conducts quite large areas of business. He created and actively conducts a unit investing in technological start-ups. He is ready to continue the family business. In my opinion, this is the wildest responsibility, this is not a gift. I am terribly happy and happy that my son is ready.

How much do you think, parents are able to determine, program the fate of their children, their future?

Parents, of course, strongly influence the future of children, but nothing is possible to program. I enjoy working, my son has seen it since childhood.

"Lanita" next year is 30 years old, Philip 40. Philip came to work from my childhood. At first "Lanit" was at a distance of 10 minutes walk from the house - nothing prevented him from coming.

Somehow the programmer Petya went to show Philip our EU's huge computers. Everything is flashing, spinning and so on. And now Philippe, pressing the button, asks Petit: "But this is what"? Quote Petya did not have time. Philip cut down the entire system. It was restored for five days. It turned out that he pressed the fire button. Philip is not to blame, of course. Do not bring the child to where there is a beautiful red button. It was necessary to warn in advance. After this story, I could not talk for a long time, not that I could swear.

For me it was clear that it was good to work hard. I think that's what influenced my son.

From the age of 15 Philip studied in England. He was not the easiest teenager, and since he wanted to go to England, we sent him there with joy and sent him. In Moscow he studied in the French special school. Before leaving for England, he taught English for two weeks.

Did you plan the education and further career of your children abroad?

I did not consider the pros and cons of studying here or there. I did not analyze two years, where to send the child to study, as they do now. So, I went to the school closest to the house. Nearby there were mathematical, French, English and sports schools. At first I went to a sports school, judging that the language will learn so and so, and sport is good. The director asked me about his son: "Is he mentally retarded?" And then I immediately decided not to give the child there. We do not need a mathematical school, I decided, I will teach myself, he has the ability. The neighboring English school was wildly criminal, the French remained - an intelligent, good school.

University in England, Philip chose on his own. By points I got. Then he returned to Russia. He worked for a while in the factory in Volgograd.

Children need to be taught to successfully develop and be happy. Material prosperity with happiness is almost unrelated. Sometimes it even hurts. I had much more reason for joy when there was no money. With them, there were so many problems that it is disproportionate. But that does not mean I'm ready to go back.

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