His name is not in all the newspapers yet, but Bidzina Ivanishvili is one of the richest men in the world.
The businessman is now starting to get more involved in the political arena, and hopes to be elected to power in Georgia. Last November, he opened the doors of his massive home in Tbilisi to reveal a palace, filled with collectibles.
Bidzina Ivanishvili’s house is a huge structure made from glass and steel, overlooking the city of Tbilisi. The palace was designed by the Japanese architect Shin Takamatsu, and cost a whopping $37 million. The 10,000 square meter home features a glass tower housing an indoor pool, as well as a private zoo that rumored to hold many animals, including zebras and penguins. In addition, Ivanishvili’s garden is filled with sculptures by, , and Henry Moore, to name a few.
Bidzina Ivanishvili is very proud of his house, and he isn’t afraid to show it. "Welcome to the home of James Bond," he gloats in front of visitors. The Franco-Georgian oligarch is strongly suspected of gaining much of his riches through shady deals, such as his alleged involvement in diamond smuggling in Angola. Others portray him as a man in circles close to the Russian mafia, but he seems not to care, as he does not limit the display of his wealth.
The interior of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s house is as luxurious as the exterior. Part of his immense art collection (total estimated worth of $1 billion) is on display, including "Dora Maar au chat", by(bought for $95.2 million in 2006), and a canvas of Egon Schiele’s costing $40 million. The pieces on show are mostly replicas however, as the originals are stashed away in London.
For years, Georgians did not know who owned this massive palace. In recent months, they have come to find out that its owner is Bidzina Ivanishvili, the 185th richest man in the world. He has let himself open to more exposure in the last few months, as he hopes to gain power in Georgia come the next election.
Such an ostentatious display of behavior makes the people of Georgia cringe.
To this thought he retorts "What is a luxurious lifestyle? I have a house in my village, another one near the sea and another one here. I do yoga and sport every day. I only eat once a day, I like fruit and a glass of wine occasionally. Once a month, I invite my close friends, but my wife and I have little outward sign of wealth." Saying and doing are two very different things to Ivanishvili, it would appear.
Biszina Ivanishvili says that he only built this palace because he loved the botanical gardens next to the place as a student, and that despite his numerous works of art, he is not a big fan, and just wants to build a collection to erect a museum like the Guggenheim Museum in the near future. Something to smile about for regulars at contemporary art fairs, but not enough to pass for a people's candidate.