Two pictures from blockbuster Russian collection exhibition in Paris to stay in France

The artworks are part of the Morozov Collection which was on display at the Louis Vuitton Foundation

Visitors view French painter Pierre Bonnard's works at The Morozov Collection: Icons of Modern Art exhibition, at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. AFP
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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.

A source close to the issue, who asked not to be named, told AFP that the first picture is a self-portrait by Russian artist Pyotr Konchalovsky, and owned by the 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's invasion of Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron visits the opening of the exhibition The Morozov Collection. Icons of Modern Art at Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, on September 21, 2021. AFP

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 artworks were on display as part of an exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in the Bois de Boulogne, western Paris. AFP

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.

Updated: April 09, 2022, 1:08 PM