The masterpieces of the Morozov collection, which had been on display at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, have safely returned to Russia, according an official source.
The exhibition The Morozov Collection: Icons of Modern Art, which closed on 3 April and drew more than 1.2 million visitors, featured around 200 Modern masterpieces by the likes of Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse and Picasso that were collected in the early 1900s by the Russian textile magnates Mikhail and Ivan Morozov. Most of the works were lent by the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, but some came from private collections.
The works were placed under legal protection in France during the run of the show. An order from the ministries of culture and foreign affairs exempting the works from seizure was effective until 15 May.
France was keen to ensure the collection's protection during the voyage, which was fraught with an array of logistical and diplomatic complications arising from the invasion of Ukraine. Because flights are suspended between Russia and Europe, five convoys of six trucks, registered in Germany, were required for the journey, a source close to the Fondation Louis Vuitton explains to The Art Newspaper.
Each truck could carry works insured for a total of up to $200m. According to our information, the convoys went through Belgium and Germany before being shipped by ferries to Helsinki and then to Russia. Each country travelled through was responsible for the security of the convoys. “At France’s request, all of Europe was online to ensure the protection of these cultural treasures“, the source says.
In co-operation with the Louis Vuitton Foundation—which is headed by Bernard Arnault, the chief executive officer of the luxury brand LVMH—the ministry of foreign affairs led negotiations with the transit countries and the European Commission. France made sure that the works would not be classified as “luxury goods“, and therefore subject to seizure. In April, Finland briefly retained “for investigation“ three shipments of antiquities returning to Russia after being loaned to Italy and Japan.
However, three works from the Morozov Collection show have been retained in France. The Fondation Louis Vuitton accepted to hold a portrait of Margarita Morozova, which belongs to the Dnipropetrovsk Museum in Ukraine, until it can be safely returned. On 9 April, France also decided to seize a self-portrait by Pyotr Konchalovsky, owned by the sanctioned Russian oligarch Petr Aven for as long as he is targeted by an asset freeze. A portrait of Timofei Morozov by Valentin Serov from the collection of Moshe Kantor—another oligarch closely associated with Vladimir Putin—was also retained, in spite of some legal difficulties regarding the fact that it belongs to a private foundation.