Alexa

New law takes effect in Britain aimed at ending feud over Russian art exhibition

New law takes effect in Britain aimed at ending feud over Russian art exhibition

Britain and Russia ended a politically tinged dispute about art Monday, with both sides signaling that a major London show of Russian masterpieces would go ahead after Britain enacted a law granting the paintings immunity from seizure.
Russian authorities had threatened to scuttle the show "From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870-1925," saying British law did not protect against artworks being seized in connection with lawsuits or court decisions.
The exhibition includes masterpieces by Matisse, van Gogh and other prominent Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists that were seized by the state after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.
Descendants of the previous owner of some of the works have made legal bids to have them returned, and Russian officials feared further attempts while the paintings were in Britain.
In a bid to salvage the highly anticipated exhibition, due to open Jan. 26, British Culture Secretary James Purnell announced earlier this month that he would quickly enact legislation barring seizure of artworks loaned by foreign countries to British museums and galleries. The law, which brings Britain into line with other European countries, had been due to take effect in February.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the legislation had come into force at 0001 GMT Monday.
"Thousands of works of art are lent to exhibitions in the U.K. each year from foreign institutions, including Russia," Purnell said. "They provide both great enjoyment and promote cultural understanding between respective countries.
"I hope that bringing forward this further legislation will see the great works in the 'From Russia' exhibition open at the Royal Academy this January."
Russia's cultural heritage watchdog said the new law meant the works could be sent to Britain.
"I can say that with the early adoption of this law, our federal agency will grant permission for the temporary export of these paintings," Anatoly Vilkov, deputy chief of the Russian agency Rosokhrankultura, told Ekho Moskvy radio. "The law fully satisfies us and protects our interests."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said officials still had to study the details of the law, but called it "a step in the right direction," the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
He signaled that permission would likely be granted, saying that the law "creates a fundamentally new, constructive backdrop for the conclusion of negotiations on the exhibit."
The Royal Academy's chief executive, Charles Saumarez Smith, said he expected the Russian culture agency to approve the loan of works for the show when it reopens Jan. 8 after the holiday period.
"We are very grateful to the Russian authorities for their co-operation," he said.
The dispute over the exhibition comes at a time when relations between Russia and Britain have been badly damaged by the case of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned by the radioactive element polonium in London last year. Moscow has refused to extradite the man wanted by Britain in connection with the slaying.
Kamynin said the resolution of the dispute was "an example of how concrete questions of bilateral cooperation can be resolved without politicizing them, without inflaming passions."
___
Associated Press Writer Steve Gutterman in Moscow contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-03-07 23:50 GMT+08:00