France decided on Saturday 9 April to confiscate a painting belonging to a Russian oligarch from the Morozov collection and loan it to the Fondation Louis Vuitton for the “Icons of Modern Art” to be held in Paris from September 22 to April 2021 Exhibition March 3, 2022. The seizure of another painting is also under study. The rest of the collection, consisting of about 200 works by Gauguin, Renoir, Matisse, Bonnard or Van Gogh, is unaffected and should be shipped back to Russia in the next few days.
One of the paintings seized was a 1910 self-portrait by the painter Piotr Konchalovski (1876-1956), who is considered a “Russian Cezanne” – by the way, the grandfather of directors Andrei Konchalovski and Nikita Mikhalkov. The painting belongs to Petr Aven, a well-known oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin. Before the outbreak of the Ukraine war, the former adviser to Boris Yeltsin ran Alpha Bank, Russia’s largest commercial bank. According to Bercy, this is the third time France has seized art since the conflict began.
The second painting under threat of seizure is the 1891 portrait of Timofeï Morozov by the painter Valentin Serov (1865-1911), a former pupil of Ilia Repin and one of the great Russian portrait painters. The canvas is on loan from Moscow’s Museum of Avant-Garde Art, created in 2001 by Russian entrepreneur Moshe Kantor, the first shareholder in fertilizer company Acron and close to Vladimir Putin.
“The special case of works held by private foundations is related to oligarchs who have just been included in the list of people targeted by the freezing measures, and are subject to review by state organs”, we explained to the Ministry of Culture. Valentin Serov’s paintings will remain in France until the government makes a decision.
Another self-portrait by Piotr Konchalovski, made in 1910 and owned by the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation in Moscow, was also threatened with confiscation and should eventually be able to return to Russia. Authorities believe that the activities of businessman Vladimir Semenikhin, who co-owns the Ekaterina Foundation with his wife, are exempt from the sanctions regime. Mr. Semenikhin is the owner of Stroyteks, one of the largest construction companies in the Russian capital.
The rest of the collection, whose fate has been the subject of speculation since the beginning of the Ukrainian war, is ultimately not to worry about. reason? These works belong to the Russian state, not to individuals. Morozov’s collection was nationalized in 1918 and is now distributed in the country’s main state museums, such as the Pushkin Museum and Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, or the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. “France wants to return the collection, there is no ambiguity. These are works of Russian heritage and it is normal for them to return to Russia”justifying the entourage of Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot.
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