Pyotr Aven on finding happiness and joy in life

In an interview with Marie Claire magazine, Pyotr Aven (Petr Aven) talked about what he sees as the most important things in life – success and happiness. He also shared his thoughts on music and discussed mistakes he has made as a collector.

On success

“In business, as in life, you achieve success when you discover what you’re good at. One of Latvia’s competitive advantages is nature, notably the phenomenal beach in Jurmala. It’s phenomenal, but nobody knows about it. Think about the Hamptons in America – everybody knows about them. Everyone! The richest people in the world go there. But this beach isn’t any different as far as I’m concerned, and the standard of natural beauty is just as high.”

On collecting and forged paintings

“I already knew a lot at 13, and as soon as I’d made my first real money I started systematically putting together a museum collection. I always knew what I wanted. I tried to collect the best pieces representing each genre a particular artist had worked in. Kandinsky, Chagall, Goncharov and Larionov, Konchalovsky and Petrov-Vodkin, Sudeikin, Serebryakova and Annenkov are just some of the painters whose works I’ve collected. [Two forged paintings] are on display in my country home as a reminder of my foolishness. Purchases like these are always exciting, and sometimes even feel like detective stories. Competition. Long conversations with the owners. It’s always very tricky.”

On classical music

“In childhood, I didn’t have any experience of the world of classical music at all. Nobody took me to the conservatoire, there were no musical instruments at home, and I never went to hear a single symphonic concert. My children have been much luckier in this regard. I’ll be honest: I attended a symphonic musical performance for the first time in my life the year before last. I have to admit that it was difficult to get through. It’s a great joy when somebody is able to listen to classical music for hours and feel inspired by what they hear. The most important function of any art form is to provide joy. Unfortunately, this particular pleasure is not for me.”

On his favourite music

“My kids downloaded some of the music of my youth onto my phone a long time ago, and I listen to that… In my day I was in charge of the music club run by Moscow State University and the Moskovskij Komsomolets newspaper. We hosted a lot of really popular groups, like Mashina Vremeni, Udachnoe Priobretenie, Visokosnoe Leto and Alexander Gradsky… Of course, I always listened to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple. Later on, I didn’t just carry on listening to them – I got to know a lot of them in person.”

On men’s and women’s happiness

“I’m well aware that women want happiness. As do men. What happiness is really about is balance. On the one hand, everybody wants a career, but they also want a family – a beloved and loving husband, and good children. Men can survive without children, but they can’t live without a career. And I’ve never met a woman who would be happy without a family.”

On money

“Money brings freedom. That’s all you need it for.”

On raising children and women in business

“Unfortunately, I was raised in the male, very masculine Muscovite culture. The first thing to be aware of is that business eats away at your time. It drains your emotions, which women need to raise children. That’s why it’s harder for women… The idea that you can outsource raising children to somebody else is a myth. If a woman doesn’t raise her children herself, nobody else will. I’m afraid this is something I’m certain of. Besides, a woman who has been working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week for 20 years cannot be happy. And if you aren’t happy, you won’t make much money.”
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