- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - A 19th century painting of St. Petersburg that Mikhail Baryshnikov purchased decades ago will be auctioned to help benefit new works at his Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City.

“Old art should make new art,” the ballet dancer and actor said Monday.

“View of St. Petersburg” by Petr Petrovich Vereshchagin is to be sold at Sotheby’s on April 12 as part of the auction house’s Russian art sale, where it is expected to fetch $300,000 to $500,000.

Baryshnikov said he recently donated the painting to the center’s foundation so it could sell it to raise money for new programming from theater directors, musicians and choreographers. All the proceeds from the sale will go to the center.

Baryshnikov is the artistic director of the center, which he founded in 2005 as a “creative laboratory” and performance space for multidisciplinary artists from around the world. Located in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, it houses four studios, a studio theater and the 232-seat Jerome Robbins Theater. It offers performances in chamber music, dance, theater and visual arts and film screenings.

Baryshnikov told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he was very sentimental about “View of St. Petersburg” because he “spent the best of my youth” there.

“But I feel that this money can be spent now on new art … that’s much more important than a look back and being nostalgic about the past,” he added.

He said the young nonprofit arts center did not yet have an endowment and relied on donations from individuals, corporations and “the kindness of strangers.”

Baryshnikov said he has already donated hundreds of works from his extensive 19th- and 20th-century art collection to his center’s foundation but that the Vereshchagin work was the first to be sold to benefit the organization.

Eventually, Baryshnikov said he planned to donate all his artworks to his foundation. There are no plans yet on how the works will be used.

Baryshnikov called Vereshchagin’s work “extraordinarily detailed and beautifully lit,” offering a “very recognizable” panoramic view of St. Petersburg.

He said he purchased it from a Helsinki art gallery around 1978.

“I totally fell in love with it and borrowed some money to buy it,” the 63-year-old artist said. “It was significant in my budget at that time, but I was so glad I bought it.”

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