Here are some of the Russian art collectors facing Western sanctions – 71Bait

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the UK, US and European Union (EU) have imposed sanctions on some of Russia’s most prominent figures and companies. Canada and Japan have also enforced economic restrictions. The move aims to freeze the oligarchs’ foreign-owned assets, which could potentially extend to some of the world’s most valuable art collections, although those held in trust companies will be out of reach.

So who is on the list?

Russian President Vladimir PutinHis assets in the EU, US and UK have been frozen over his recognition of the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk and the all-out invasion of Ukraine, according to an EU legal text released on Friday. Putin’s personal art collection received a boost in 2015 from a gift from an elderly woman named Nina Moleva, which includes more than 1,000 works reportedly worth between $400 million and $2 billion. The collection was said to include paintings by Velazquez, Rubens and Michelangelo at the time, although this has never been verified and where these works are currently kept is unclear.

Boris Rotberg, a childhood friend of Putin and co-owner of Russia’s largest gas pipeline construction company, SMP Group, is among those targeted by British sanctions. However, such measures have not deterred him in the past.

Rotenberg and his brother Arkady were sanctioned by the US government in 2014, but a Panama Papers report revealed that they continued to buy and sell multimillion-dollar works of art, including the $7.5 million private sale of René Magritte La Poitrine, and a $6.8 million spending spree on a single sale of Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby’s. The auction house then announced that it would no longer do business with the people and companies named in the report.

A number of Russian banks are also facing sanctions. Both the US and UK have frozen assets VTB Bank, Russia’s second largest bank. It’s not clear how extensive the bank’s art collection is and where it is kept, but the company invests heavily in culture, including the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and the State Hermitage Museum.

Alfa Bank has also been targeted by the EU and US, which have been imposed debt and equity constraints. Although not named, Pyotr Aven is currently the bank’s chairman of the board. He is one of the most prolific collectors of Russian art, whose collection includes important paintings by Igor Larionov, Natalia Goncharova and Wassily Kandinsky. Parts of his collection are in Moscow and Great Britain, where the garden of his house in Surrey is populated with sculptures by Lynn Chadwick, Henry Moore and Louise Bourgeois, among others. He plans to open a private museum in Riga, Latvia, where part of his collection could also be kept.

Meanwhile, a number of other oligarchs and companies not on the list could also face sanctions. That’s what Labor MP Chris Bryant called for Roman Abramovich be robbed of his assets, including Chelsea Football Club. The Russian billionaire also owns a massive art collection, which reportedly includes that of Lucian Freud Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995), which he bought in June 2008 for $33.6 million, and Francis Bacon’s triptych (1976), which was purchased for $86.3 million that same week.

The UK government privately named him as a person of interest in 2019, but Abramovich has vehemently denied reports suggesting his alleged closeness to Putin. On Saturday, Abramovich released a statement saying he would hand over the “management and care” of Chelsea to his charitable foundation arm, though his trustees have yet to approve the move.

energy giant Lukoil is another potential target for European sanctions given the oil company’s importance to the Russian economy. The company is already subject to some US sanctions. Vagit Alekperov, the President and CEO of Lukoil, is an avid coin collector and opened a numismatics museum in Moscow in 2015.

While sanctions have proven to be a godsend in the past, perhaps excluding select Russian banks from Swift (the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), the main secure messaging system for fast and secure cross-border payments, will make more sense. Collectors may not be directly affected by these measures, although any attempts to buy or sell art internationally are likely to be hampered. However, offshore transactions will be more difficult to monitor.

  • To update: On February 28, the EU added more names to its sanctions list, including Pyotr Avenwho described him in legal documents as “one of about 50 wealthy Russian businessmen who regularly meet Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin”. Alisher Usmanov was also called a “pro-Kremlin oligarch with particularly close ties” to Putin. Usmanov famously stopped an auction at Sotheby’s in 2007 by stepping in to buy the late musician Mstislav Rostropovich’s entire collection for more than £25m and donating it to one of Putin’s palaces. In recent years he has developed into an influential sponsor of museum exhibitions, including in international exchange with the Vatican.
  • To update: On February 28, Switzerland and Monaco announced they would also freeze assets and impose sanctions on certain Russians.

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