On November 19 Anita Singh, the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Arts & Entertainment Editor,’ made the sensational claim (Faberge Telegraph Article PDF) that London’s Victoria & Albert Museum ‘found itself at the centre of a rather indelicate row.’
‘What the hell’s all this be about?’ I wondered anxiously.
Nobody else seemed to have picked up on this ‘row’.
The V & A, it transpired, stood accused of ‘displaying a fake Fabergé egg.’
The man doing the accusing was our old chum – that pseudo-expert, quasi-professor and purveyor of forgeries, Alexander Ivanov.
Ivanov’s Fabergé Museum in Baden-Baden, reported Ms Singh breathlessly, had claimed that the Third Imperial Easter Egg – currently on show at the V & A’s blockbuster Fabergé In London exhibition – was a fake, and that ‘similar cheap eggs were produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.’
Why on earth should Ms Singh lend credibility to such a spurious allegation?
I got used to reading lies and garbage in Pravda back in the USSR. I was staggered to come across the same sort of drivel and misinformation in one of the supposed bastions of Britain’s free press.
The Third Imperial Egg
Ms Singh did not appear to have checked any facts. Ivanov has never even held the Third Imperial Egg in his sweaty little hands. From what I hear, he is persona non grata in the U.K., and not allowed to bid at auctions staged by Sotheby’s or Christie’s – presumably for not paying his bills. What else could it be? Rude or lewd behaviour? I doubt that. Auction firms are forgiving: they will smother you with love and respect if you bid and underbid – and pay your bills on time.
The £9 million Ivanov ‘paid’ (ostentatiously waving his paddle so everyone could admire the wealth and might of this King of the Russian Market, and his ability to obliterate all competition) for a Fabergé egg (Ms Singh doesn’t say which) in London in 2007 may indeed have been ‘cheap’ (as Ms Singh complaisantly quotes Ivanov as saying) – but only because it wasn’t his money. This egg (originally made for the Rothschilds) was subsequently presented to the Hermitage by Vladimir Putin. Whether it was Putin, the Russian State or some other benefactor who actually funded the egg is not clear. It certainly wasn’t Ivanov.
Ms Singh describes Viktor Vekselberg as ‘Ivanov’s rival’ – implying that the two men are equals. Who is Ivanov, pray? What’s his company called? Ms Singh even terms Ivanov a ‘tycoon’ (I don’t think she got that from Forbes; the only source must have been Ivanov himself). The idea of any such rivalry is preposterous! Vekselberg’s de luxe Fabergé Museum in St Petersburg has the premier collection of Fabergé anywhere in the world – with nine Imperial Eggs (second only to the Kremlin’s ten), and hundreds of other stellar objects that no other museum in the world possesses (not even the Kremlin). Ivanov’s rambling ‘museum’ in Baden-Baden, with its shoddy display of dodgy caboodle and fake Fabergé eggs is, in comparison, a sick joke. Its cheap souvenir shop and ugly café with plastic orange seating are hardly a match for Vekselberg’s museum with its palatial grandeur, dozens of staff, bookstore, jewellery shop and continual exhibitions. The advisory board to Vekselberg’s museum includes all the world’s leading Fabergé experts. The museum is rated St Petersburg’s number 2 tourist attraction behind the Hermitage (which itself ranks only behind the Louvre as the world’s number 1 museum). By way of comparison, TripAdvisor rates Ivanov’s museum as the 23rd attraction in little Baden-Baden.
‘Professor’ Ivanov staring at fake ‘imperial Fabergé eggs’
A host of museums, private collectors and dealers from around the world have lent 238 Fabergé pieces to the current V & A exhibition. Baden-Baden wasn’t even approached. Even Baden-Baden’s array of supposed ‘imperial Fabergé eggs’ (recently exhibited in the Hermitage by Ivanov’s pal Piotrovsky) were disdained by the V & A, despite the London museum’s industrious attempts to assemble as many imperial eggs as possible.
It’s hard to be too tough on Ms Singh, though. Her speciality isn’t Fabergé. It isn’t even Art. It’s showbiz gossip. I wonder why she is even called an ‘Arts and Entertainment Editor’ – her lack of knowledge about the Arts makes that title redundant.
Among her latest Telegraph articles: AJ Ododu Could Miss Strictly Come Dancing Final, and Best TV Drama of 2021? Nobody Could Outdo Oprah and Megan.
Oh, and she’s also written a book: The Story of the Great British Bake Off.
Ms Singh studied at Bradford Grammar School and Newcastle University, had a brief job in advertising, then – as we learn from the Bradford Grammar School website (www.bradfordgrammar.com/portfolio-items/anita-singh) – spent a couple of years as a hospital receptionist, which ‘turned out to be a really good grounding for interviewing people when I became a journalist.’
My name is also mentioned in Ms Singh’s article – so why, if she had such a good grounding, didn’t she interview me? Getting hold of me is easy. We both live in London. My phone number is on my website. Ms Singh apparently did not contact any Fabergé experts (their names are emblazoned on page 250 of the catalogue produced for the V & A show) to elicit an opinion or simply gather relevant facts. With such a stupid or arrogant approach she wouldn’t last one day at Ruzhnikov.com!
Bradford Grammar School has educated a number of illustrious pupils apart from Ms Singh – including a Chancellor of the Exchequer (Denis Healey), historian Alan Bullock, composer Frederick Delius, and two illustrious artists – Sir William Rothenstein and David Hockney.
Another Old Bradfordian I know of is Simon Hewitt. I don’t know if Hewitt has ever worked in advertising or at hospital reception, but I do know he studied Art History at Oxford with the great Francis Haskell, has visited both the Fabergé Museum in St Petersburg and the one in Baden-Baden, and is probably the world’s leading journalist when it comes to Russian art. In fact, he compiled a meticulously researched article about Ivanov and Fabergé for ArtNet News earlier this year (https://news.artnet.com/market/faberge-ivanov-hermitage-museum-1940514).
Hopefully Ms Singh is planning an update on her Fabergé piece for the Daily Telegraph. If so: Please read the article by your fellow-Bradfordian, Anita – then give me a call!