Business Management

Eugene Kaspersky on modern art, whale circling & the Antarctic Biennale

At the end of March a new exhibition on the selfie opened at the Saatchi Gallery in London sponsored by Huawei. While throughout the month Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and founder of his eponymous company, embarked on a very unusual art cruise to Antarctica (which his firm had also sponsored). Tech companies, it seems, are now clamouring to be patrons of the arts.   

The first Antarctic Biennale expedition ran for 12 days and included around 100 artists, architects, researchers and philosophers. The aim, explained the website, “was to explore and to think about a universal cultural future for Antarctica as a model of other ‘shared spaces’ as Ocean and Outer Space”. Eugene Kaspersky answered a few questions about the trip and his involvement below.

 

How did you (and Kaspersky) come to be involved in all this?

I like getting involved in extraordinary things. And we sponsor extraordinary things too. We sponsored the all-woman skiing expedition to the South Pole. We are presently sponsoring the archeological digs at the Akrotiri Bronze Age settlement on the island of Santorini (Greece), and the annual festival where astrophysicists meet musicians called Starmus. And then there’s our sponsorship of Scuderia Ferrari. We like endeavours that go beyond the usual corporate sponsorship routine.

The Antarctic Biennale is our latest foray into the unusual. It has a very daring, pioneering spirit, and it’s been an amazing feeling helping make it happen.

I must admit that I’m no expert in modern art, and sometimes I can be a little sceptical about it, but I like some contemporary artworks very much. I really like Salvador Dali’s work – we even have one of his sculptures in our HQ. He was pretty contemporary – and far-out – not that long ago, and I hope some of those taking part in the Antarctic Biennale will achieve similar worldwide fame one day.

And finally, I have to admit that Alexander Ponomarev, the artist who was the driving force behind the biennale project, not only has artistic (and sailor’s) talents. He’s also a great persuader.

 

Does it have anything to do with security?

To be honest – not really. Ok, there’s the fact that both our industry (cybersecurity) and art are about making the world a better place… but, sure – it’s rather a tenuous connection.

 

Where does your interest in Antarctica stem from?

Every child dreams of going to faraway lands, and Antarctica is probably the farthest you can get – at least from Russia. My childhood dream came true on New Year’s Eve in 2010 when we were sponsoring the all-woman skiing expedition to the South Pole; some colleagues and I flew there to greet them upon their arrival. Though brief, the experience left a lasting impression on me. Antarctica is simply spectacular. There are no natural colours besides black and white (plus sometimes blue – up in the sky); the only other colours are those ‘imported’ by the visitors themselves. There are no sounds besides the snow crackling underfoot and sometimes the wind howling; if there’s no wind and you’re not walking around – perfect silence. You never hear birds singing as there aren’t any – ever; birds tend not to go in for being a thousand miles from food and water. And there are no… tangible distances. The air is so clean and dry and the glacial landscapes are so unpredictable that visually determining distance is simply impossible.

 

How did you contribute to the art making process?

We had a team of three people and a couple of times we helped with some of the installations. I personally wasn’t directly involved. We also took our mascot with us – the Japanese green bear named Midori Kuma. Not a real bear, of course. You could call him our artistic contribution. Sometimes Midori helped with some of the installations and it’s pretty hilarious.

 

What was the most inspiring piece of art you saw on the trip?

I really liked Tomás Saraceno’s Aerocene project with its air-fueled black sculptures floating high in the skies. They looked spectacularly beautiful with all the frozen wilderness of Paradise Harbor as a backdrop.

 

Did anything surprise you during the trip?

Not really. I think I saw there what I expected to see. I was positively impressed by the great atmosphere on board the ship. I also was stunned by the sight of hundreds of whales encircling the ship.

 

How does Antarctica provide a model for our global future?

One of the climate projections I’ve heard about says there’s another ice age coming, so the Antarctic might be the model for future life on Earth quite literally; our descendants might be forced to live in conditions as harsh as those in Antarctica.

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Kathryn Cave

Editor at IDG Connect

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