Russian Collectors' Heirs Seek Compensation for Artworks

Bloomberg 21 January 2008
By John Varoli

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) -- The heirs of the greatest czarist-era collectors, Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morosov, called for compensation from the Russian government to redress the 1918 confiscation of their ancestors' artworks.

Their demand comes before the opening Jan. 26 of ``From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870-1925 From Moscow and St. Petersburg'' at the Royal Academy in London. The show features more than 120 works, including pieces by Gauguin, Kandinsky and Van Gogh. Among the paintings, 23 were once in the Shchukin collection, including Matisse's ``The Dance,'' and 13 were owned by Morosov.

French citizens Andre-Marc Delocque-Fourcaud, Shchukin's grandson, and Pierre Konowaloff, Morosov's great-grandson, said that both the British and Russian exhibition organizers have the ``possibility to earn enormous sums of money,'' and that the heirs are morally entitled to a portion of the proceeds.

``From Russia'' is sponsored by E.ON AG, Germany's biggest utility. Delocque-Fourcaud and Konowaloff said the Russian government must respect ``the moral and material rights of the collectors and their families,'' and called for ``an agreement that reasonably compensates and pays a percentage of the material benefits that accrue from exploitation of the works.

`Economic Machines'

``The great art exhibitions are not anymore purely cultural enterprises for the edification and education of the people,'' said Delocque-Fourcaud and Konowaloff in a statement. ``They are huge economic machines, crucial for the budgets of the lending museums who are supported by super sponsors.''

This is the first statement by Delocque-Fourcaud and Konowaloff after the two months of uncertainty and tension that preceded the London exhibition's preparation. The men said they never had any intention of starting legal proceedings in the U.K.

``The heirs of the Russian collectors do not ask for the restitution of the paintings confiscated by Lenin,'' said Delocque-Fourcaud and Konowaloff. ``We have accepted and we agree that our paintings are housed in great Russian museums.''

A spokeswoman for Russia's Federal Agency of Culture and Cinematography declined to comment.

Legal Attempts

Since 1994, Delocque-Fourcaud and Konowaloff have attempted legal action three times against Russian museum exhibitions in Paris, Rome and Los Angeles that featured artworks from their ancestors' collections. All three cases were unsuccessful for the heirs, who said their goal was to win concessions on the issue of a percentage of proceeds.

On Dec. 19, Russian authorities put the Royal Academy show on hold because the U.K. had no law guaranteeing the works would be immune from third-party confiscation. On Dec. 30, the government enacted a law aimed at protecting artworks loaned from abroad against third-party seizure.
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