France announced that two paintings recently featured in a successful exhibition of a famous Russian art collection at Paris’ Fondation Louis Vuitton will remain there until circumstances change regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The two paintings are among some 200 masterpieces in The Morozov Collection: Icons of Modern Art exhibition, which attracted more than 1.2 million visitors through April 3 and has been extended since February 22. Most of the works are on loan and should return to museums in Russia.
France had resisted calls to seize the works to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had helped make the show possible, and on 8 Russia was to be exempted from sanctions. But the French culture ministry said on Saturday that two of the paintings will remain in France.
One of the works is a self-portrait by Pyotr Konchalovsky, reportedly owned by Russian oligarch and avid art collector Petr Aven, who has been sanctioned by the EU and Britain for his allegedly close ties with Putin following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Aven subsequently resigned as trustee of the Royal Academy. Tate has also severed ties with the billionaire, who was a member of the Tate International Council and the European Collection Circle of Donors. The plant will remain on French soil “as long as its owner … remains subject to asset freezes,” the ministry said in a statement quoted by France 24 and Agence France-Presse. The ministry later confirmed the statement to Artnet News.
Another work is said to be Valentin Serov’s painting of Margarita Morozova, owned by the Dnipro Fine Arts Museum in Ukraine. The ministry said the move to keep the painting came “at the request of the Ukrainian authorities” and it will remain in France until the situation changes and the work can be safely returned.
A third painting from that collection, held by a private foundation, may remain, but the ministry said it is still evaluating the situation. The work in question is said to belong to the Magma Foundation, which has ties to Viatcheslav Kantor, another British sanctions target, according to the AFP report.
Fondation Louis Vuitton declined to comment.
Artworks by Russian oligarchs have taken center stage since being sanctioned following the country’s ongoing aggression in Ukraine. Many of the sanctioned billionaires have had their assets confiscated or frozen, and they have also resigned from some of the leading Western cultural institutions that they used to serve as patrons or donors.
Aven, for example, told that recently financial times that he was in talks to donate his art collection to an institution in the UK but now feared he would struggle to pay his bills.
Works from Russian museums, especially those loaned to foreign institutions, were treated differently. South Korea has rejected Russia’s request for an earlier return of 75 modern Russian artworks on display in Seoul until April 17, amid EU sanctions. On Friday, Finland said it would release them to Russia under the updated EU rule on cultural goods.
The Morozov Collection was assembled by Mikhail (1870-1903) and Ivan Morozov (1871-1921), brothers from a family of textile magnates, who acquired more than 250 works by first-rate Western and Russian Impressionist and Modern masters, including Matisse, Monet and Cézanne to Picasso and Van Gogh. Mikhail died at the age of 33, while Ivan continued to build the collection. Their holdings were “nationalized” in 1918, almost a year after the start of the Russian Revolution. Ivan Morozov had to flee and died in exile.
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