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Hermitage Held Back Rousseau Paintings From Tate Modern Show

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Bloomberg 6 December 2005

The State Hermitage Museum refused to send art works to a Henri Rousseau exhibit at the Tate Modern in London because the Culture Ministry banned loans to countries that don't guarantee immunity in third-party disputes.

``Our paintings were not sent to London because the Tate can't give the state guarantee that we require,'' Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky said yesterday in an interview in St. Petersburg. ``Our Culture Ministry will not give permission to loan to English museums or to any museum in any country that doesn't provide the necessary guarantee.''

The policy resulted from a dispute in which a Swiss court impounded 54 paintings belonging to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow on Nov. 15 in a dispute between a Swiss company and the Russian government. The art was released the following day after the Russian government protested.

The Tate said in a press statement that no Hermitage Rousseau paintings were in the exhibit when it opened on Nov. 3.

Piotrovsky said the Hermitage Rooms, a London project with the Courtauld Institute of Art, probably wouldn't be affected.

``Together with the Courtauld, we're negotiating with the British government to obtain the necessary guarantee,'' he said. ``We're confident that in this case we'll reach agreement.''

The Hermitage's next exhibit at the Courtauld, ``The Road to Byzantium: Luxury Arts of Antiquity,'' opens March 30.

``We are aware of the need to provide a guarantee of immunity from seizure for art loaned to U.K. exhibitions from Russia and discussions are in progress,'' Deborah Swallow, Courtauld Institute director, said in a press statement.

Russia will continue to loan art to the U.S., Germany, France, Japan and Finland because these countries' governments do provide the necessary guarantee of immunity, he said.

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