Gollar: My good friend Ruth Kornfeld from Zürich, is in the art business. One day she came up to me and said she wants to come with us to Moscow to buy paintings of the cubist artist Lyubov Popova. I asked Vainstein if he could ﬁnd a Popova for us. He made a few phone calls and came back to us with a positive reply: “Of course I can ﬁnd you a Popova!”
A couple of days later Vainstein tells me he found a Popova, and that I should bring my friend and $100,000 in cash. At that time carrying so much cash across borders was forbidden, but I was used to bringing cash into Russia, from the Kremlin Cup, because there was no other choice.
We went and looked at the Popova. Then we decided to take it to one of the top experts. He said it’s genuine. But then Ruth said — I don’t know, I have a strange feeling about this. Something is not right. So we went to another expert, and that one said it’s a fake. Then Ruth made a few phone calls to friends of hers from the ﬁeld, and they said — “Be careful! Russians are experts at art forgery! Do not touch anything!”
So we decided not to buy.
I had to take all the money back home, which I wasn’t used to from the Kremlin Cup. Bringing money inside Switzerland could be a bit more risky. So I bought a few ﬂat bags, put the bills inside, put them in my underwear and wore thick winter pants over the whole thing. Thank God for winter! I have a friend in the art business named Lyuba Shaks. Vainstein introduced me to her, and since then we always meet when I’m in Moscow, and she visits me when she comes to Israel. At that time, I didn’t tell her about the Popova I’m looking for, only Sasha.
Years later, I met Lyuba in Moscow, for the 20th Kremlin Cup, when we were invited as guests of honor, and I thought I might tell her the Popova story. She said the famous expert who told us the Popova was real, was collaborating with the forgery maﬁa, and that’s how numerous fake paintings made it to Europe at that time. He was very well-known in the West as well as in his own country, and managed to fool the whole art world!