France seizes a painting from the Morozov collection belonging to a Russian oligarch


France decided on Saturday, April 9, to seize a painting from the Morozov collection belonging to a Russian oligarch and lent to the Louis Vuitton Foundation for the exhibition “Icons of modern art”, which was held in Paris from September 22, 2021 to April 3, 2022. The seizure of another canvas is also under study. The rest of the collection, made up of around 200 works by Gauguin, Renoir, Matisse, Bonnard or Van Gogh, is not affected and should be repatriated to Russia in the coming days.

One of the paintings seized is a self-portrait made in 1910 by the painter Piotr Konchalovski (1876-1956), considered the “Russian Cézanne” – and incidentally the grandfather of the directors Andrei Konchalovski and Nikita Mikhalkov. The painting belongs to Petr Aven, a reputed oligarch close to Vladimir Putin. Before the outbreak of war in Ukraine, this former adviser to Boris Yeltsin ran Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest commercial bank. According to Bercy, this is the third seizure of a work of art in France since the start of the conflict.

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The second painting threatened with seizure is a portrait of Timofeï Morozov painted in 1891 by the painter Valentin Serov (1865-1911), a former pupil of Ilia Repin and one of the great Russian portrait painters. The canvas was loaned by the Museum of Avant-garde Art in Moscow, created in 2001 by Russian entrepreneur Moshe Kantor, first shareholder of the fertilizer company Acron and also close to Vladimir Putin.

“No ambiguity”

“The particular situation of a work held by a private foundation, linked to an oligarch who has just been added to the list of personalities targeted by freezing measures, is the subject of an examination by the services of the State “, we explain to the Ministry of Culture. Pending the government’s decision, Valentin Serov’s painting will remain in France.

Another self-portrait by Piotr Konchalovski, made in 1910 and owned by the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation in Moscow, also threatened with seizure, should finally be able to return to Russia. The authorities believe that the activities of businessman Vladimir Semenikhin, who owns the Ekaterina Foundation with his wife, do not come under the sanctions regime. Mr. Semenikhin is the owner of Stroyteks, one of the largest construction companies in the Russian capital.

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The rest of the collection, whose fate has been the subject of speculation since the start of the war in Ukraine, will ultimately not be worried. The reason ? The works belong to the Russian state and not to individuals. The Morozov collection was nationalized in 1918 and is today disseminated in the main state museums of the country, such as the Pushkin Museum and the Tretyakov Gallery, in Moscow, or the Hermitage Museum, in Saint Petersburg. “France wants to return the collection, there is no ambiguity. They are works of Russian heritage and it is normal for them to return to Russia”justifies the entourage of the Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot.

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