Sanctions leave ‘dozens’ of Russian paintings stranded in South Korea

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There are reports of “dozens of” paintings blocked in Seoul, following Western sanctions limiting flights out of the country.

The works are believed to have been part of a major exhibition, Kandinsky, Malevich and the Russian avant-garde: revolutionary art (which ran from December 2021 until last week) at the Sejong Museum of Artbased at the Sejong Center for Performing Arts, Seoul.

The show featured a total of 75 pieces by around 50 renowned artists and included the work of Kandinsky Improvisationsby Mikhail Larionov Venus and pieces by Natalia Goncharova and Alexander Rodchenko.

According to reports from France Media Agencythe organizers claimed that a large part of the exhibitions are now “blocked” with at least four Russian institutions which have allegedly loaned works, including the Nizhny Novgorod State Art Museum and the Yekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts .

“We indeed have to rethink the logistics and are discussing the details of the contract,” says Nikita Korytin, director of the Yekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts. She, however, denies that there are “extreme difficulties”, adding that “there really is always a way”.

The Sejong Museum of Art did not respond to our request for comment.

The news comes days after Russia’s Ambassador to France, Alexei Meshkov, publicly announced that the travel hiatus could “complicate the return” of works from the Morozov collection, including pieces by Picasso, Cézanne and Gauguin, which were (until recently) exhibited at the Fondation Louis Vuitton.

Although there have been international claims of ‘seized’ artwork – namely the three shipments containing artwork detained by Finnish customs earlier this month amid concerns over sanctions violations – major inter-institutional art loans are widely considered “exempt from foreclosure” under clauses in loan agreements (although this may exclude loans from individuals).

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