Two pictures from a popular Paris art exhibition of masterpieces collected by Russian aficionado Ivan Morozov are to remain in France, owing to circumstances created by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the French Culture Ministry said on Saturday.
One picture, currently owned by a Russian oligarch affected by Western sanctions, and another, belonging to a Ukrainian museum, “will stay in France,” the ministry said, after uncertainty over the return of the pictures after the end of the record-breaking exhibition.
Aven, a billionaire financier and banker, is seen as close to President Vladimir Putin and is the target of Western sanctions imposed after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
This painting “will remain in France so long as its owner remains targeted by an asset freeze,” the ministry's official statement read.
The second picture, a painting of Margarita Morozova by the Russian painter Valentin Serov, belongs to the Dnipropetrovsk Art Museum in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro and will stay in France “until the situation in the country allows its return in security,” said the ministry.
It emphasised that this was “at the request of the Ukrainian authorities“.
Meanwhile, France is currently assessing the situation concerning a third picture owned by a private foundation, linked to another Russian oligarch who is being added to the sanctions list, the ministry said.
The source told AFP that this picture is owned by the Magma foundation linked to Viatcheslav Kantor. He is already the target of UK sanctions over his shareholding in a fertiliser company.
The exhibition was on show at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris from late September until April 3.
It is now being dismantled and about 200 pictures will be returned to the museums in Russia where most of them are usually kept.
The highlights of the collection include works by Impressionists and other European masters rarely shown abroad, as well as great works of Russian art.
Most of the Morozov collection is now held by The State Tretyakov Gallery and Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, and the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, rather than by private collectors.
But there have been concerns about the return of the pictures, which is set to take place by land rather than air, because of the current restrictions on air travel between Europe and Russia.