After several weeks of uncertainty, the Ministry of Culture announced on Saturday that two paintings will not return to Russia as planned.
The ax fell. Two of the two hundred impressionist and modern works of art from the Morozov collection exhibited until last week at the Louis Vuitton Foundation will not return to Russia, the Ministry of Culture told AFP on Saturday. The goods concerned are two paintings, one belonging to a Russian oligarch, the other from a Ukrainian institution, the Museum of Fine Arts in Dnipropetrovsk.
The Ukrainian painting is the portrait of Margarita Kirillovna Morozova, the wife of collector Mikhail Morozov (1870-1903), painted in Moscow in 1910 by Valentin Serov. This oil on canvas seized “at the request of the Ukrainian authorities” will remain in the hands of the French authorities “until the situation in the country allows his safe return”, said AFP. According to the press agency, the second painting is a self-portrait by painter Piotr Konchalovski. It would belong to Petr Aven, an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin who is subject to sanctions, including an asset freeze.
The Ministry of Culture is still considering the case of a third painting in the Morozov collection, linked to the oligarch Vyacheslav Kantor, also hit with sanctions. The object would belong to the Magma foundation, associated with the Russian billionaire.
The announcement puts an end to several weeks of speculation on the future of this prestigious art collection presented since the fall in an exhibition event. This was the first release outside Russia of the collection that belonged to industrial and philanthropic brothers Mikhail and Ivan Abramovich Morozov (1871-1921), before being nationalized in 1918 by Lenin. It is made up of an incredible number of Russian and foreign masterpieces, from Van Gogh to Kasimir Malevitch, via Auguste Renoir and Ilya Repin. The vast majority of canvases belong to the collections of the Hermitage Museum, the Pushkin Museum and the Tretyakov Gallery.
The start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the successive rounds of sanctions targeting the oligarchs close to power and then their extension to luxury goods had dragged out questions about the possible premature interruption of the exhibition, or even the very hypothetical seizure of the collection. On March 15, the Russian ambassador to France had declared, following the interruption of direct air lines to Russia, that the logistical arrangements for a return of the works had not yet been met.
The conflict between Moscow and kyiv has notably resulted in the return to Russian museums of several works of art loaned abroad, particularly in Italy. Some of these repatriated cultural objects were seized last weekend by Finland, as they were preparing to return to Russia. They will finally be able to return to their original museums, the Finnish Foreign Minister said on Friday. The exhibition in France of the Morozov collection was inaugurated in September in the presence of President Emmanuel Macron and the Russian Minister of Culture, Olga Lyoubimova.
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