Arts institutions cut ties with Russian oligarchs

Vladimir Potanin and Petr Aven – apparently close to Putin – quit as trustees of the Guggenheim and the Royal Academy, respectively, as the art world mulls a cultural boycott following the invasion of Ukraine

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2012. Courtesy of Creative Commons; photo: Jean-Christophe Benoist; CC BY 3.0

Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin has left his post as administrator of the Guggenheim Museum, a position he has held for two decades. The museum also said in a statement that it “strongly condemns the Russian invasion and unprovoked war against the government and people of Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, Russian oligarch Petr Aven – a banking tycoon and collector close to Putin – is to step down as a trustee of the Royal Academy in London (the institution said it was returning its recent donation for its Francis Bacon show).

The Tate remains under scrutiny over Russian energy tycoon Viktor Vekselberg’s status as an honorary member of the Tate Foundation (the museum said there was “no permanent link”). Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Phillips, which is owned by the Russian luxury goods group. company Mercury Group (founded in 1993 by Leonid Fridlyand and Leonid Strunin, apparently close to Putin). Professionals in the art world told the New York Post that collectors should boycott the auction house because of its relations with Russia. (None of the founders are on the US and UK sanctions lists).

Meanwhile, other institutions and states are evaluating cultural sanctions and boycotts involving Russia. In the world of classical music, conductor Valery Gergiev and opera singer Anna Netrebko have had their performances canceled and their positions withdrawn due to their support of the Russian president. Following a campaign, the Venice Biennale confirmed that it “will not accept the presence at any of its events of official delegations, institutions or persons linked in any capacity to the Russian government”. Meanwhile, the arts, Nadine Dorries, Britain’s culture secretary, recently suggested, could form “the third front in the Ukraine war”.

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