Farhad Ahmadov the founder of the collection of Azerbaijani painting, a businessman and philanthropist, the owner of a multimillion wealth is desperately in love with art.

Farhad Ahmadov was born on September 15, 1955 in Baku.

He is the first ethnic Azerbaijani who was elected a Russian senator. In his Homeland, Farhad Ahmadov is well known not only as a businessman and politician but also as a patron who is engaged in various charitable activities.

Farhad Ahmadov who has invested considerable funds in the art of Azerbaijan for many years became one of the first benefactors who managed to stop the outflow of contemporary Azerbaijani art outside of the country. Collecting of works of Azerbaijani artists belonging to different generations turned to be his passion and spiritual need.

Over the many years, Farhad Ahmadov has consistently and deliberately gathered the crumbs of his unique collection. The ideological basis of his collection is a desire to maximize coverage of the entire spectrum of principally differing artistic trends in the Azerbaijani pictorial art of the twentieth century. The famous collection includes the works by such masters as Sattar Bahlulzadeh, Mikail Abdullayev, Abdulkhalig, Beyukaga Mirzazadeh, Maral Rahmanzadeh, Khalida Safarova, Mahmud Tagiyev, Togrul Narimanbeyov, Tahir Salahov, Farhad Khalilov, Ashraf Murad, Jawad Mirjawadov, Rasim Babayev, Tofig Javadov, Ujal Haqverdiev, Elyar Alimirzoev, Museib Amirov and many others whose names have been included in the golden fund of Azerbaijani pictorial art. These works afford us an opportunity to trace the stages of formation and development of Azerbaijani art.


The collector is known for his comprehensive aesthetic preferences. He highly appreciates the works of both a realistic painting school and modern artists. It is really very difficult to deservedly appreciate all what Farhad Ahmadov has done for the sake of preserving the cultural wealth of the Azerbaijani people. Because the basis of his collection consists of paintings of the nonconformist artists whose works have not only been unappreciated during their lifetime but they even were forgotten after the death. Many of these works were taken away to foreign countries and stored in private collections. The most complete to date spectrum of works of an outstanding artist Ashraf Murad constitutes the core of Farhad Ahmadov collection. The art patron obsessively collects the works by this artist for several years. Farhad Ahmadov brings back to the country the artist’s work stored in private collections outside of Azerbaijan and makes them become public.

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With time, the collection gradually expanded, and the amount of the works of the recognized giants of the Azerbaijani art stored here increased. This pushed F.Ahmadov to the idea of founding a permanent exhibition. It was thought that a future exhibition would afford an opportunity for everyone to dive into the fascinating, mysterious and inscrutable world of the Azerbaijani art. That’s so, in 2005, the idea of founding “Nar” gallery was born and implemented.

Farkhad Akhmedov is accompanying us through his house located in Nardaran village. It seems that the walls of this house are breathing with arts. The most famous collector in Azerbaijan and a founder of a large “Nar” gallery in the Old City is showing us dozens of works of Azerbaijani artists painted by Rasim Babayev, Mirjawad, Togrul Narimanbeyov, Khalida Safarova, Ashraf Murad, Sattar Bahlulzadeh, Eliyar Alimirzoev, Malik Aghamalov, Gafar Seyfullaev … Carefully setting some picture in a right position, the collector says: “Look, when I’m absent for a long time, the paintings look like bored. Every picture needs energy. Each of them requires attention. You must approach each picture, put it straight, stand about and fantasize about what it depicts. Each of them is so ambiguous”.

Generally, modern art is very ambiguous.

Art would never be monosemantic. Art has no form. It only has content. Art is something eternal. Everything else is perishable. Unfortunately, the youth don’t understand this. On second thoughts, a taste for arts is not cultivated among the young generation. There are no serious sites or TV channels dedicated to arts. Nobody reads serious books nowadays. Spirituality is being diluted. But, in fact, there were cave drawing in Gobhustan already 2000 year ago. There is a whole picture gallery there! This is indisputable fact which proves that our people have a great artistic past. Everything depends on how the arts would be regenerated and cultivated in souls.

How did you cultivate the arts in your breast?

My creative preferences began to form in my early age. In 1974 I was 19 year old. I lived in Moscow. I had everyday morning runs in the Belyayevski Park. One day, purely accidentally, I saw how bulldozers destroyed an exhibition of unrecognized avant-gardist artists. They were also called “nonconformists”. The nonconformists’ works didn’t comply with requirements of the Soviet classic pictorial art and, therefore, were subject to disposal. I was very much indignant at that act of vandalism.

I met with those artists and helped them even to save their pictures. With those paintings my collection took the start in that distant year.

Do you still prefer this artistic style?

Not only that. The era was different. You know, there is a letter sent by Clara Zetkin to Lenin, one sentence of which was translated incorrectly. That sentence reached the Soviet people as follows: “Art must be understandable to most people”. But in fact a German version says: “Art must be understood by most people”. There is a huge difference there between these two translations! Art was understandable but was not understood. Therefore, Mandelstam, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Ahmatova, Malevich, Kandinsky were deservingly recognized much later when a reverse side of the truth, which was closed, began to open with its own system of values.

So, there are some pictures in my collection, which I purchased 35 years ago. On Saturdays, selling exhibitions were held in Izmailovo. On the October Square there was an antique store where I used to buy Aivazovsky paintings. Afterwards, in the 90s, I used to buy pictures of Aivazovsky at Sotheby’s auctions. By the way, the first Sotheby’s auction in Russia was arranged in 1989 with my participation. Amount of money involved at that point in time were really vast, about 2-3 billion.

You, most probably, were the most loyal Sotheby’s customer from the Soviet Union at that point of time.

Yes. Even at the time, I already loved and understood the art.

You are a successful businessman. Do you think that arts are somehow interrelated with business? After all, the works of artists are also deemed to be a valuable investment.

You mean, whether I used to buy paintings as an investment in the Soviet era? No, I didn’t. They didn’t worth a straw then.

Nowadays, I sporadically buy some. For instance, my wife and I recently bought some works by Pollock and Warhol. We are not buying the Russian pictorial works anymore, because I already have a huge collection of the paintings by Serov, Shishkin… Classical business requires that a businessman should invest 5% of his wealth in art. This is a rule for all big investors to invest 5% of the wealth in gold and another 5% in art. Gold plays a major role in the inflation. The quantity of money increases more and more in the world while the amount of gold becomes less and less. Annual turnover on the art market makes only 60 billion dollars. That’s not a lot. But it is the most profitable investment. If we consider the investment for a period of 100 years, the best recommendation is to invest in artworks. At the end of the day, they are inimitable. The quantity of money increases while the amount good art pieces becomes less and less. As to diamonds, they are the most unprofitable investment. Every time you buy a diamond, you lose money. If, certainly, what you’ve bought is not a rare diamond or pearl.

If an artwork is deemed to be a profitable investment object but you don’t like it as such, would you buy anyway?

No, I don’t buy what I don’t like. Each picture represents a certain bundle of energy. This is a powerful field of attraction. This is dynamics. Expressionism. Any picture emits active and passive energy just like any other objects in the house do. Depends on who and how drew it.

Your favorite artists and paintings?

I may prefer certain galaxies or schools of arts. I like the old Absheron School of painting very much. By the way, I have studied the biographies of our artists in detail. 90% of them are the alumni of the State Art College in Baku. Along with this, as if all of our artists have natural talents. Absheron artists paint their pictures as Karabagh singers sing Mugham. Whole-heartedly. Take as an instance Rasim Babayev, Mirjawad, Gennady Brizhatyuk, Sattar, Mikail Abdullayev, Mahmud Taghiyev and, certainly, Tahir Salahov and Togrul Narimanbeyov …

The artists themselves also are changing throughout their lives. They used to change and still are changing their genres; they are in continuous state of exploration. Sattar, for example, was not a landscape painter but portraitist, and then switched to landscapes.

Which of young Azerbaijani artists are your favorites?

I like the paintings of Niyaz Najafov. Young artists are all ingenious in their own way. There is just one step between talent and genius. Take water, for instance. Water comes to boil at 99°C but already evaporates at 100°C.

The first picture of an Azerbaijani artist I’ve ever bought was “Pomegranates” by Togrul Narimanbeyov. Unfortunately, our artists have not yet recognized worldwide. Just as Azerbaijani cultural heritage, I would say. I want to promote it in the World of Art and I do it. But it requires more time, money and serious efforts. Our art school may raise the image of Azerbaijan to a very high level.

How many artworks do you have in your collection at the moment?

I can’t say for sure … Should be a few hundred. I made gifts by five times more than I own. On wedding parties, usually money or other valuables are gifted, but I make a gift of pictures. Some people were surprised at first. But then they understood that such kind of gift is really the most valuable thing. I strived to promote the love and understanding of art in my friends. Some of them even began to gather their own collections based on the paintings which I presented to them.

Did you have the desire to draw by yourself?

Certainly, I even was gifted an easel! But I didn’t achieve that. I think I have a talent, but it’s an inner talent which must be developed. So, if I can’t show the beauty by means of art, I anyway try to support it by collecting artworks.

What was your aim while opening Nar Gallery?

Art must be the property of the people. The Nar Gallery collected about 60 paintings. The huge potential of Azerbaijani artists has not yet been unlocked. At the moment, I’m working for preparation of a directory dedicated to the activities of Azerbaijani artists. In fact, we have almost no information about their lives. It is necessary to collect such information grain by grain.

For example, how was Ashraf Murad’s life? He was a genius! During 20 years of work he completed 50 paintings only. At that, his works are brilliant; they have reached the level of Malevich, Picasso, and even left them behind in terms of magnitude. But he is not yet recognized or well known. I endeavour now to collect all of his works. After his death, many of his paintings simply were thrown out of the studio! I used to buy his works in Moscow, and even hired a detective agency for tracking his life. One day I read his letter to a woman he loved, written in such a manner as only Pushkin could write. You really wonder when delving into the artist’s life. One day, Ashraf was asked: “Why do you always paint a sea in black colours?” He replied: “When I entered the sea it was blue. But when I came out of him it was evening and the sea turned black.” What a deep meaning contained in his words! All this must be recorded, published so that we could better understand artistic. It is necessary to promote works of our artists to make them be recognized and displayed in auctions and bought … However, prior to introducing them in auctions they must be “pumped through” exhibitions in well-known galleries and museums. This is a serious job. This is a huge contribution.

The most memorable gift you have ever presented or had?

You know, you should gift things you really feel pity about being parted with. Unlike what we usually do when re-gifting things which we don’t need. I personally gift those things which are hard for me to part with. But it would be outside of modesty to talk about that. Farhad Khalilov, for instance, gifted his work to my son. Altai Sadighzadeh presented me a picture painted specially for me which depicts the street in the Old City where my office is located.

What other works would you like to include in your collection apart from Ashraf Murad’s paintings?

I’m purchasing many works of Rasim Babayev. He has a huge amount of paintings.

Over last period, I’ve been interested in Chinese, Indian and Japanese arts. Unfortunately, very few people are able to make collections. If every third Chinese would ride a vehicle, the oil would have cost not $ 100 per barrel, but 200. And if every hundred thousandth individual would be interested in painting, the price of artworks would have immediately shot up.

You gamble on a stock exchange, you are really keen on art and manage a large business in the same time. Do you have enough time for all of this?

As you see I have 7 phones here. I’m on the alert all the times (laughing). Paranormalists say that I have strong energetics. I also have well developped intuition. This is very important for the stock exchange activities. But love and perception are more important for art. Art is more valuable for me.

What about charity?

It’s definitely important. But, this is not the subject which is to be flaunted.

What time do you allot to arts?

All my life…

A multicultural personality Farhad Ahmadov


A man with unusual fate and bright biography, a head of a large and happy family which honours traditions, a billionaire and a well-known Russian businessman and politician Farhad Ahmadov is a true multicultural personality. Fate decreed that he has syncretically adopted the culture, traditions and education of three countries that had equally played a big role in his life. Farhad Ahmadov phrased a role of each country where he lived as follows: “Azerbaijan is a place of birth, in Russia I built up my personhood, and England developed my personality.”

F.Ahmadov was born in 1955 in Baku, and spent his childhood in Goychay – an Azerbaijani city well-known since ancient times for its pomegranate gardens. He was brought up in the best traditions of the Azerbaijani family where the mother and father are respected; the national culture is learnt and loved. Shady gardens of pomegranate trees with wonderful fruits full of life juice; plaintive and meditative sounds of Mugham emerging from the depths of the subconscious, and such deep and sparkling colours of ornamented carpets that adorn the walls and floors in the house have forever been imprinted in Farhad Ahmadov’s memory as the images of childhood. And all of this together represents a kind of aesthetics and beauty of way of life and nature of Azerbaijan which left an indelible sign in his soul.

After departure from Azerbaijan back in 1969, Farhad Ahmadov continued his education in Moscow which became his second home. With “Perestroika” which proclaimed freedom of speech and raised “the Iron Curtain” between “Decadent West” and the USSR, some significant changes occurred in Farhad Ahmadov’s life. They were just as important as those which swallowed a rapidly collapsing empire that was great and invincible some time ago. Farhad Ahmadov who got more than one higher education by that time, set foot on his long and tough path into the world of big capital, big deals and emerging companies … He graduated from the prestigious School of Economics in London and got another higher education.

Many years later upon return to Azerbaijan, Farhad Ahmadov achieved a very important goal of his life. He restored Goychay pomegranate cannery the once headed by his father products of which conquered the world market in a few years and became one of the brands of Azerbaijan.

Today, Farhad Ahmadov is a member of the Board of Directors of CJSC “Northgas” and Chairman of the Supervisory Board and a shareholder of CJSC “Aznar”. He has achieved a lot in this life, and now he is on the crest of fame and success. But the main specialty of his personality is that he managed to maintain a slim spiritual connection with Homeland although he lived and developed away from it for a long time; the native land that is rich not only with resources but with spiritual culture which is keenly felt by Farhad Ahmadov, is still attracting him. In his homeland, he is known not only as a businessman and politician, he is also known as a patron of the arts engaged in charitable activities. For many years, Farhad Ahmadov has heavily been investing in the arts of Azerbaijan. He is one of the first businessmen who stopped the outflow of contemporary Azerbaijani art abroad. Collecting works of Azerbaijani artists of different generations became his passion and spiritual necessity. Over the many years, Farhad Ahmadov has consistently and deliberately gathered the crumbs of his unique collection. Interesting is one fact from the story of his life – the first acquisition for a future rich collection was “Pomegranates” by Togrul Narimanbeyov. Particularly this picture which depicts pomegranates mystically woven into Farhad Ahmadov’s fate laid a basis for his collection and became its precious symbol. The businessman has chosen a right strategy, in fact, the ideology of the collection provides for the maximum coverage of the entire spectrum of fundamentally differing artistic trends in the Azerbaijani art of the XX century.

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The best works of the collection painted by such artists as Sattar Bahlulzade, Mikail Abdullayev, Abdulkhalig, Boyukagha Mirzazadeh, Maral Rahmanzadeh, Khalida Safarova, Mahmud Tagiyev, Togrul Narimanbeyov, Tahir Salahov, Farhad Khalilov, Ashraf Murad, Jawad Mirjawadov, Rasim Babayev, Tofig Jawadov, Ujal Akverdiev, Elyar Alimirzoev, Museib Amirov and many others whose names are included in the golden fund of Azerbaijani art, allow us to trace the stages of formation and development of the Azerbaijani pictorial art, and to feel its peculiar and unique image. The collector’s aesthetic preferences are manifold. He highly appreciates works of realistic painting and works of modern artists. In this connection, it’s impossible not to mention the main component of Farhad Ahmadov’s private collection which is the most complete to date collection of works by an outstanding artist Ashraf Murad. The art patron obsessively collects the works by this artist for several years. Farhad Ahmadov brings back to the country the artist’s work stored in private collections outside of Azerbaijan and makes them become public. After all, a collection meant earlier as private laid the basis for the “Nar” gallery which will give everyone an opportunity to plunge into a fascinating, mysterious and mysterious world of the Azerbaijani pictorial art.

Being an avid fan of the Azerbaijani pictorial art, Farhad Ahmadov is interested in the works of the young generation artists, and he purchases their work and includes them in his collection.

It’s well known that the youth is the future of any country. Farhad Ahmadov’s program of charitable activities in Azerbaijan includes, but is not limited to, the implementation of artistic projects with involvement of talented Azerbaijani youth. In his interviews, Farhad Ahmadov often says that “spiritual values are being replaced by material ones” in the modern world. Putting investments in building of spiritual and intellectual potential of the people is a prerogative of such a visionary strategist as Farhad Ahmadov.

It’s worth to tell more about one of recent art projects. Principal of the Academy of Arts Omar Eldarov and Vice Principal Salhab Mammadov familiarized F.Ahmadov with active creative life of the Academy students and he was literally transfused with enthusiasm of the young people. Later on, in May 2012, the Academy of Arts successfully held “Aznar” contest among creative students of this “forge of talents”, based on Farhad Ahmadov’s initiative and support. A pomegranate as Azerbaijan’s national token which symbolizes fertility and life for many centuries was designated as a subject of the contest. It’s most important that this subject provides room for imagination without losing its applicability, and is very organically “integrated” into the plastic language of contemporary art while retaining its national character. The aim of the competition was to identify and encourage talented and creative students, preserve the traditions of the Azerbaijani school of painting, and raise the professional level of students and expand their horizons. According to the contest, in addition to cash prizes for those who would won the I-IV positions or be awarded encouragement prizes it was planned to arrange a voyage to St. Petersburg to visit the Hermitage museum which is a treasury of world art. This unique opportunity was meant to open up a new world for young artists and introduce them to the masterpieces of world culture. For many talented students who had no chance to visit such museums, their participation or victory in the contest gave an unprecedented opportunity to see with their own eyes the works of the great art masters, to feel and learn from them. The cultural program of the voyage also included a visit to the “Russian Museum” and the State Academic Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture named after Repin in the St. Petersburg.

The contest was attended by 75 students from different grades and trades. The proposed subject was developed by them in sculpture, painting, drawing, graphics and ceramics. There were 80 works presented to the jury chaired by Farhad Ahmedov and Principal of the Academy of Arts an Academician Omar Eldarov. The best works were chosen from among the exhibited works, and the successful students were presented awarded in accordance with places they won. The fourth-year student Mahir Rahimov won the first award with his “The last pomegranate”, the second place was shared by Aysel Amirova and Ayan Aziz; Bahruz Kangarli and Masuma Hajiyeva occupied the third place while Kamran Mirzaaghayev, Rosa Aliyeva, Gamar Mammadzadeh, Ulviyya Shukurova, Safia Mirbabaeva and Mehseti Ibrahimova shared the fourth place. The winning works were expected to be stored in the collection of the “Nar” gallery and become a part of Farhad Ahmadov’s collection. In addition, Farhad Ahmadov purchased several works by the winning students, which will also be included into the collection of the “Nar” gallery. Hopefully, in the future, the names of these students will be well known, their works be displayed at exhibitions and purchased for collections of art lovers around the world.

It was scheduled to arrange similar art contests and art projects on an annual basic in collaboration between the Academy of Arts and Farhad Ahmadov, where the main award for students would be an opportunity to visit the greatest museums in the world.

Author: Shirin Malikova, PhD in Art History