France will retain the works of the hit show Paris Russia

Paris: Two photos from a successful Paris art exhibition of masterpieces from a Russian collection rarely seen abroad must stay in France following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the French government announced on Saturday.

The Morozov Collection, put together by brothers Mikhail and Ivan Morozov, attracted over a million visitors for more than six months in Paris before finally closing earlier this month.

But there have been questions about returning the works due to sanctions and restrictions imposed after Russia attacked Ukraine.

A painting belonging to a Russian oligarch targeted by Western sanctions and another belonging to a Ukrainian museum “will remain in France”, the Ministry of Culture said on Saturday after uncertainty over the return of the photos following the exhibition record.

A source familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity, told AFP that the first photo is a self-portrait by Russian artist Piotr Konchalovsky owned by Russian oligarch Petr Aven.

Aven, a billionaire financier and banker, is seen as close to President Vladimir Putin and is the target of Western sanctions imposed after Russia attacked Ukraine.

This painting “will remain in France as long as its owner (…) remains subject to an asset freeze”, the ministry said in a press release.

The second painting, a painting by Margarita Morozova by Russian painter Valentin Serov, belongs to the Museum of Fine Arts in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro and will remain in France “until the situation in the country allows its safe return”. , the ministry said. .

She stressed that it was “at the request of the Ukrainian authorities”.

Meanwhile, France is assessing the situation regarding a third photo belonging to a private foundation linked to another Russian oligarch which is added to the sanctions list, the ministry said.

The source added to AFP that this photo belongs to the Magma foundation linked to Vyacheslav Kantor. He is already targeted by British sanctions for his stake in a fertilizer company.

Symbol of cooperation

The exhibition was presented at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris from the end of September to April 3.

It is now being dismantled and the approximately 200 paintings have returned to museums in Russia where most of them are usually kept.

Highlights of the collection include works by Impressionists and other European masters rarely exhibited abroad, as well as great works of Russian art.

Most of the Morozov collection is now held by the Tretyakov and Pushkin museums in Moscow and the Hermitage museum in Saint Petersburg rather than by private collectors.

But there have been concerns about the return of the footage, which was to take place by land rather than air due to current restrictions on air travel between Europe and Russia.

The Ministry of Culture said the collection could benefit from a waiver of the restriction rules because the works had been loaned under a cultural cooperation agreement.

More than one million visitors had seen the exhibition by the end of February, nearing the record 1.29 million people who had visited another Louis Vuitton exhibition of works from Sergei Shchukin’s major Russian collection in 2016-2017.

Russia’s ambassador to France, Alexei Meshkov, said last month that it was “no secret” that there were problems regarding the return of work due to the “drastic” measures agreed following the invasion.

The exhibition was inaugurated in September, months before the invasion, during a ceremony in the presence of President Emmanuel Macron and the Russian Minister of Culture, Olga Lyubimova, in a sign of Paris’s determination to continue cultural cooperation. with Russia.

The Fondation Louis Vuitton is one of the most prestigious exhibition venues in Paris, created by the billionaire founder of the fashion conglomerate LVMH Bernard Arnault and housed in an emblematic building designed by Frank Gehry.

Mary I. Bruner