Street art at the budget expense. 12-story blonde glorifies 2018 FIFA World Cup 

Street art at the budget expense. 12-story blonde glorifies 2018 FIFA World Cup
Ivan Panteleev, General Director of an advertising agency, picked his wife to impersonate Russia at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Photo: The CrimeRussia

A 50-meter-high mural on a residential building in the Zhulebino district of Moscow caused a scandal in the final days of the world championship. Social networks and the media were outraged by a giant portrait of the wife of Ivan Panteleev, owner of Novatek Art – the company retained by the Moscow government to produce the fresco painting. Critics accuse him of monopolization of the legal street art market in Moscow and corruption ties with the Mayor’s Office, while the businessman claims that the competitors are just jealous of his success. The CrimeRussia decided to find out who is right and wrong in this situation.

Huge football-themed murals appeared on the streets of Moscow and other Russian cities hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup in anticipation of the mundial.

Everything seemed fine – the wall paintings on residential high-rises brought the positive FIFA energy to sometimes boring cityscapes. But one fresco has attracted the public attention, caused a stir in the media, and exposed the purely commercial nature of the Russian street art. It became known that this business brings profits only to those having close ties with the municipal and federal authorities.


A mural is a piece of street art work applied directly on a wall (a painting, stencil drawing, etc.). In fact, a mural is a large graffiti – but experts clearly distinguish these two types of street art. Originating from classic fresco paintings, murals normally have higher symbolic value. Furthermore, unlike the underground ideology used by graffiti artists, murals, being much larger in size, are normally created legally and in agreement with the municipal authorities.

A mural depicting a classic ample-curved ‘Russian beauty’ in athletic apparel has appeared on a residential high-rise at 65/32 Privolnaya street in the Zhulebino district on June 14. Colleagues of Ivan Panteleev, General Director of Novatek Art advertising agency, have identified the woman portrayed by Thai artist Mue Bon as Panteleev’s wife Daria.


The scandal has erupted three weeks later, after the publication of a Reuters report stating that the creation of the mural in Zhulebino “was funded from the Moscow budget by the Municipal Committee for Public Relations”. In his interview to Radio Liberty, the General Director of Novatek Art could not provide the exact cost of his wife’s portrait on the 12-story building and estimated it at “several hundreds of thousands of rubles”.


Ivan and Daria Panteleev (Photo: Facebook)

Users of social networks were outraged by the fact that the Head of Novatek Art has ordered a world famous artist to paint a giant portrait of his wife at the taxpayers’ expense. 

Then it became known that the mural in Zhulebino was created in the framework of the Moscow Street Art Festival (MOST) carried out by the Moscow Department of Culture, Moscow Agency for Implementation of Social Projects State Autonomous Institution of the City of Moscow, and Novatek Art company. Shortly before the world championship, the press service of the Moscow Committee for Public Relations has explained the concept of murals dedicated to the football event; the first such fresco was created back in 2016 on a railroad substation not far from Otkrytie Arena Stadium.

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Murals in Moscow created by Novatek Art in anticipation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup
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“The sports-themed graffito must remind the Moscow residents of the forthcoming football championship and benefits of sports for schoolchildren and youth. Therefore, the artists depict famous superheroes and teenagers playing football; we hope that young city dwellers take cues from them”. 

Amid the scandal around the portrait of Daria Panteleeva in Zhulebino, Novatek Art has issued a statement for the press vehemently denying the state funding for the giant graffiti and requiring journalists to address the company “for corrections” prior to any publications. Still, the situation remains unclear. Organizers of the festival don’t disclose its funding sources. Moscow street artists asked by The CrimeRussia were unable to answer these questions as well. 

When asked by The CrimeRussia to specify the share of budget funding in the organization of MOST Festival or disclose the “non-budget sources” earlier referred to by Ivan Panteleev, representatives of Novatek Art have responded vaguely:

“The governmental order mentioned by the media is non-existent in nature. The company has sufficient own funds for art projects. If you look at our page, you would see that we implement advertisement projects”.

Novatek Art is indeed pretty successful in implementation of expensive advertisement projects. The Portfolio section on the corporate web site vividly illustrates this. Murals produced by Novatek Art had repeatedly attracted the media attention in the past – take, for instance, the high-profile graffiti on Sadovoe ring showing Star Wars stormtroopers.


In 2016, the picture promoting a new episode of the saga – The Force Awakens – has caused surprise and stir among Moscow residents associating the soldiers with SWAT troopers. On the other hand, one person has interpreted the stormtroopers as “American propaganda” and “symbols of military might of the USA and NATO” and submitted letters to the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation, Presidential Executive Office, Ministry of Defense, and Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) requesting to punish officials who had permitted this “action paid for by the American show business”. However, after the painting out of this graffiti, some people had regretted “such a beauty”. 

A pop art graffiti created by 310 Group as per order of Novatek Art on the wall of Apakov Streetcar Depot on Mytnaya street in the framework of the Best City on the Earth Festival has been painted out as well.


According to independent Moscow artists, this festival became the beginning of the commercial success of Ivan Panteleev, who has commercialized and, in fact, monopolized the street art in Moscow. 

Ivan Panteleev does not make a secret of his efforts taken to bring the street art from the underground to Moscow streets. 

“I have spent plenty of energy and time to convince the authorities that this is a beneficial, important, and interesting matter. We have created over one thousand art works, including portrait of Maya Plisetskaya on Bolshaya Dmitrovka street and large Nasledie (Heritage) Project dedicated to Russian people of art of the early 20th century. We are listed in the Russian Guinness Book of Records for the largest graffiti. We have conducted the first international graffiti forum, established the first All-Russia street art award, and invited speakers not only from other parts of Russia, but from all over the world,” – Panteleev told Radio Liberty.


The mural depicting Mikhail Bulgakov has been created in the framework of Nasledie (Heritage) Project

According to people familiar with the businessman, Panteleev has presented the idea to decorate the streets of Moscow with art works in order to prevent vandalism and improve their appearance to Sergei Sobyanin back in 2012.

Panteleev has also asked the Moscow Mayor “to instruct the Department of Housing and Utilities to assist young but experienced artists able to improve the engineering infrastructure” – based on the results, he had likely meant specialists of his own company. 

After the meeting with Panteleev, Sobyanin has instructed Sergei Kapkov, Head of the Moscow Department of Culture, to take charge over the street art.

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Sergei Sobyanin and Sergei Kapkov

The Best City on the Earth Festival – funded from the municipal budget – became a result of the fruitful collaboration between Kapkov and Panteleev. According to The CrimeRussia sources, Novatek Art received the largest number of spaces (120) at this festival and continued strengthening its positions on the promising market with every year. 

Impressive graffito started appearing in the Russian capital. According to open sources, Novatek Art made good money on this – in 2012-2013, the company belonging to Ivan Panteleev has earned 78 million rubles ($1.3 million), including 52 million rubles ($835.9 thousand) received from the Moscow budget.


Novatek Art became a permanent participant of tenders carried out by the Moscow government. Its owner is well aware of the game rules. The company is neither the absolute leader by the value or number of governmental contracts awarded to its nor a sole bidder at most lucrative tenders. According to database, Novatek Art had participated in 95 tenders and won 9 of those totaling 18 million rubles ($289.4 thousand).


Its customers include Moskollektor State Chain Enterprise for Pipe Conduit System Usage, Moscow Agency for Recreation and Tourism State Autonomous Cultural Institution, Department of Nature Use and Environmental Conservation of the City of Moscow, Moscow Directorate of Mass Events, etc. Moskollektor is the most frequent and well-paying client (9 million rubles ($144.7 thousand)). 

However, governmental tenders are not the main source of company’s revenues. Its General Director and founder has mentioned this fact himself:

“Speaking of tenders, we haven’t won all of those; in fact, we have won only a smaller portion of the tenders. We have a competitive market; nothing prevents other bidders to suggest their ideas and implement major projects, thus, demonstrating their capacity”.

According to Panteleev, advertisement projects constitute only 5% of the Novatek Art’s portfolio. However, these commercial projects generate the main revenues. Many such contracts are signed with companies partially belonging to the state and regional authorities. Some projects are so large-scale that their cost is a closely guarded secret; therefore, the company’s annual income of 300 million rubles ($4.8 million) looks pretty humble. 

For instance, Novatek Art created a portrait of Tatar poet Musa Cälil on a residential building in Kazan located at 5 2nd Gazovaya street; it is called “a gift to Kazan from Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ” in Tatarstan.


The United Moscow Power Grid Company (MOESK) Public Joint Stock Company has implemented this spring, jointly with the company belonging to Panteleev, Futbolnye Kontinenty (Football Continents) Art Graffiti Project in Luzhniki Sports Complex – transformer substations of the complex were covered with football-themed graffito created by world famous artists: Jamin (Australia), Karski en Beyond (the Netherlands), Marina Zumi (Argentina), Farid Rueda (Mexico), etc. These artists were also involved into the creation of murals dedicated to the championship.

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Transformer substation in Luzhniki

According to The CrimeRussia source, Novatek Art is not the sole player on the legal street art market of Moscow. Aleksander Dyagilev, the former commissar of Nashi (Ours!) Youth Democratic Anti-Fascist Movement and some other patriotic movements, is actively exploiting the ‘patriotic’ niche – he is the initiator of legendary “Russia and Crimea Together Forever” graffiti on Taganskaya square.


The CrimeRussia source in the street art community has commented the current situation as follows: “Today, the street art in Moscow has nothing to do with art, it is a pure business based on corruption ties, propaganda, and ‘spending’ of allocated budgets. The portrait of Ivan Panteleev’s wife in Zhulebino is just a curiosity able to attract the public attention to the genre monopolization problem and concurrently providing notorious but effective publicity to his company”.



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