Russia May Allow Show in London After U.K. Speeds Up Art Law
By Henry Meyer
Dec. 24 (Bloomberg) — Russia may give the go-ahead to a London exhibition of works from its museums after the U.K. government pledged to speed up passage of legislation protecting artworks from seizure.
The Russian authorities canceled the show last week because they said the U.K. failed to offer sufficient guarantees that the works would be immune from third-party confiscation.
“We are ready to send the exhibition to London if the new law is in place in time,” Natalia Uvarova, a spokeswoman at the Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography, said by telephone from Moscow today.
The threatened cancellation of the show came as relations between Russia and the U.K. are strained over the murder in London last year of a dissident ex-KGB intelligence officer.
The show, “From Russia: French and Russian Masterpieces, 1870-1925,” is sponsored by E.ON AG, Germany‘s biggest utility, and is at Duesseldorf’s Museum Kunst Palast until Jan. 6. It was slated to open at London‘s Royal Academy of Arts on Jan. 26.
The State Hermitage Museum and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts were among four Russian museums set to lend to the Royal Academy some 120 paintings by 20th-century French and Russian artists such as Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse, Kandinsky and Malevich.
The U.K. Department for Culture, Media and Sport says the new art legislation, which has been examined by both houses of Parliament already, will now be accelerated when Parliament resumes on Jan. 7.
The artworks can’t go to London from Duesseldorf after Jan. 6 unless the U.K. legislation is in force by then and will have to return to Russia, Uvarova said. Shipping the works from Russia to the U.K. is still technically possible, though “there might not be enough time,” she said.
U.K.-Russian ties soured after the radioactive poisoning murder of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in November 2006. Russia has refused to hand over Andrei Lugovoi, another ex-KGB agent whom U.K. prosecutors want to put on trial for the murder.
On Dec. 12, Russia announced it was closing down the regional offices of the British Council, which functions as the cultural center for the U.K. abroad.
To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at email@example.com