Russian Fund Manager Taps Ford Models in Penthouse Art Gallery

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Photographer: M. Alexander Weber/fordPROJECT via Bloomberg

Manuela Paz, director of VIP Relations at The Armory Show, Guerman Aliev, head of Altpoint Capital Partners, and Rachel Vancelette, director of the fordPROJECT gallery.

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Photographer: M. Alexander Weber/fordPROJECT via Bloomberg

Manuela Paz, director of VIP Relations at The Armory Show, Guerman Aliev, head of Altpoint Capital Partners, and Rachel Vancelette, director of the fordPROJECT gallery. Close

Manuela Paz, director of VIP Relations at The Armory Show, Guerman Aliev, head of Altpoint Capital Partners, and... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

David Farr, a writer and theater director, and Rachel Weisz, an actress, at the opening for "Involuntary" at fordPROJECT. Close

David Farr, a writer and theater director, and Rachel Weisz, an actress, at the opening for "Involuntary" at fordPROJECT.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Chloe Sevigny, actress, and Neville Wakefield, curator, at the opening of "Involuntary," organized by Wakefield. Close

Chloe Sevigny, actress, and Neville Wakefield, curator, at the opening of "Involuntary," organized by Wakefield.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Ryan McGinley, artist, at the opening of fordPROJECT's show "Involuntary." Close

Ryan McGinley, artist, at the opening of fordPROJECT's show "Involuntary."

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Artists Olympia Scarry and Amelia Whitelaw at the exhibition after-party at the Surrey. Scarry, girlfriend of curator Neville Wakefield and granddaughter of children's book author Richard Scarry, has two works in the show. Close

Artists Olympia Scarry and Amelia Whitelaw at the exhibition after-party at the Surrey. Scarry, girlfriend of curator... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Hala Matar, co-curator of the art space Chiles Matar, and Casey Fremont, director of the Art Production Fund, at the opening of "Involuntary" at fordPROJECT. Close

Hala Matar, co-curator of the art space Chiles Matar, and Casey Fremont, director of the Art Production Fund, at the... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Claiborne Swanson Frank, a photographer, and Genevieve Bahrenburg, editor at Elle.com. Close

Claiborne Swanson Frank, a photographer, and Genevieve Bahrenburg, editor at Elle.com.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Hubert Neumann, a collector, and Steven Bakalar, a media strategist, at the after party for the show, held in the presidential suite of the Surrey hotel. Close

Hubert Neumann, a collector, and Steven Bakalar, a media strategist, at the after party for the show, held in the... Read More

Photographer: Evan Joseph Uhlfelder/fordPROJECT via Bloomberg

From left, Tim Goossens, Rachel Vancelette and Guerman Aliev at the fordPROJECT Gallery at 57 West 57th Street in New York. The gallery plays a strategic role in Aliev's plan to propel Ford beyond modeling. Close

From left, Tim Goossens, Rachel Vancelette and Guerman Aliev at the fordPROJECT Gallery at 57 West 57th Street in New... Read More

Source: fordPROJECT via Bloomberg

"WISH YOU WERE HERE" by Scott Campbell. The work is part of "Involuntary" at fordPROJECT gallery. Close

"WISH YOU WERE HERE" by Scott Campbell. The work is part of "Involuntary" at fordPROJECT gallery.

A young woman in a long black dress napped on a floor area covered with coal, oblivious to the noise of a penthouse art gallery’s opening-night crowd earlier this week.

The sleepyhead was part of an exhibition, “Involuntary,” at the new fordPROJECT, an art gallery that occupies a two-story penthouse on West 57th Street. It was one of the satellite programs of Armory Arts Week, New York’s biggest annual art expo.

The fordPROJECT gallery was also part of an effort by junior Russian oligarch Guerman Aliev to exploit the famous brand of Ford Models. Tuesday’s opening drew actors Chloe Sevigny and Rachel Weisz as well as players from publishing, art and the media.

Aliev is head of Altpoint Capital Partners LLC, a New York- based private-equity firm that owns 93 percent of Ford Models.

“Ford as a brand is much stronger than the revenue it generates,” said Aliev recently while drinking green tea in his 50th-floor Altpoint office overlooking Central Park. “Our foray into the art world is a way to expand the brand.”

Born in Moscow, he learned Japanese as an exchange student, and ended up spending seven years at Merrill Lynch &Co. in London, as a director of its capital-markets business. In 2003, he joined Vladimir Potanin’s Interros Holding Company in Russia. Interros now is the biggest investor in the funds managed by Altpoint.

Buzzy Crowd

Aliev said he has allocated between $1 million and $1.5 million a year for his gallery, including the cost of staffers, art fairs and celebrations like the party after the “Involuntary” opening which drew a buzzy crowd to the Surrey Hotel.

Aliev hired Rachel Vancelette, former director of Yvon Lambert and Gladstone galleries, and Tim Goossens, former assistant curator at PS1, to oversee sales and programming. In most shows, the prices will range from $10,000 to $100,000.

“I am going to work through various modus operandi,” Aliev said. “Now I am experimenting with having rotating curators for exhibitions without representing any of the artists. But I am not saying that this model will never change.”

Twitching

Organized by influential art curator Neville Wakefield, “Involuntary” was inspired by involuntary physical responses as well as violent and paranormal elements. It includes Laurel Nakadate’s video “Exorcism in January” showing her twitching and contorting.

A week before the show, Aliev blocked a piece that involved the sleeping girl and prescription drugs “because of the liability issues,” he said. After the drugs were scrapped, the work was allowed in.

“This is the first time I’ve seen all of it,” Aliev said at the opening, surveying the crowded space. “Unlike most contemporary-art shows I see in New York, this one elicits a range of emotions, from admiration to contemplation, joy and shock.”

(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the reporter of this story: Katya Kazakina in New York at kkazakina@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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