Ocula Magazine   |   News   |   Institutions

Senior staff at Russia's Pushkin Museum, V-A-C Foundation, and Cosmoscow art fair resigned as art professionals distanced themselves from Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine.

Phillips, Guggenheim, Royal Academy, and Others Break Ties With Russia

#kunst4ukraine, Our Space to Help, Neue Nationalgalerie 2022 © Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Simon Menges.

Prompted by sanctions and public pressure, art institutions are going to great lengths to distance themselves from Russia.

Faced with calls to boycott Phillips, which is owned by Russia's Mercury Group, the auction house promised to donate the buyer's premium and vendor's commission from their 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society.

The sale, which took place in London on March 3, brought in £30 million (US $40 million), with 39 of 41 lots sold after five were withdrawn. Around $7.7 million was raised for the Red Cross.

'Witnessing the horrific scenes in Ukraine, I made a very clear statement earlier this week about our condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine,' said Phillips CEO Stephen Brooks following the auction. 'Tonight we have done something very practical.'

Practical consequences of Russia's invasion continue to ripple across the art world.

Vladimir Potanin, a Russian oligarch who amassed billions with mining company Norilsk Nickel, stepped down from the board of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York last week after two decades in the role.

'The Guggenheim accepts this decision and thanks Mr. Potanin for his service to the museum and his support of exhibition, conservation, and educational programmes,' a spokesperson for the Guggenheim told ARTnews. 'The Guggenheim strongly condemns the Russian invasion and unprovoked war against the government and people of Ukraine.'

Petr Aven, who runs Russia's Alfa-Bank, also resigned as trustee of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, a position he has held since 2014. The Royal Academy said it returned his donation towards the exhibition Francis Bacon: Man and Beast, which continues through 17 April.

Tate is under scrutiny for its ties with another oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, who owns oil and energy conglomerate Renova Group. Vekselberg has supported exhibitions of Russian art abroad through his nonprofit the Link of Times Foundation. Vekselberg has also donated to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Lincoln Centre, and Carnegie Hall.

Questions have also been asked about Leonid Mikhelson, chief executive of Russia's largest private gas group, Novatek, whose V-A-C Foundation has funded Tate in the past.

Tate told The Guardian 'neither [Vekselberg nor Mikhelson] are current donors, and there are no UK sanctions on any of Tate's supporters.'

Leaders of Russian Art Institutions Step Down

Inside Russia, leaders of art institutions have quit or been pushed out.

Francesco Manacorda, the artistic director of the V-A-C Foundation, resigned due to the war in Ukraine.

'Unfortunately, current events have significantly changed labour and personal conditions, which is why I came to the conclusion that I will not be able to continue working with the same dedication that I could be proud of,' Manacorda told Russia's TASS news agency. 'My decision was given to me with much difficulty and repentance.'

Pushkin Museum deputy director Vladimir Opredelenov also left his role, a decision he announced on Instagram.

'My attitude to current world events does not coincide with that of my colleagues from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation,' he said. 'I hope this will change in the near future, but with things as they are, I am forced to leave my beloved museum.'

And Simon Rees, the New Zealand-born artistic director of the Cosmoscow art fair, has also resigned.

​​'I have mobilised—En Seule—by quitting the job I held in Moscow couched within the framework of that cultural elite,' he shared on Facebook. 'It's a small sacrifice. And I am saddened for friends and colleagues in Russia. Nevertheless, I am freed to express an opinion about the insanity unleashed that we are witnessing.'

'Self-interest aside, I feel absolute solidarity with the people of Ukraine and the peoples of Russia and Belarus who do not support this act of aggression. And can only hope there is a swift and positive resolution ensuring minimal destruction and loss-of-life,' he said.

Outside Russia, the art world continued to rally in support of Ukraine.

Over the weekend, Berlin's Neue Nationalgalerie held a fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees. It was organised by director Klaus Biesenbach with artists Olafur Eliasson and Anne Imhof. Donations were collected by Be An Angel eV.

Also in Berlin, where tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees have already arrived, the Humboldt Forum held an event to collect camping mattresses, blankets, bedding, and foodstuffs for the charity Ukraine-Hilfe Lobetal. —[O]

Ocula discover the best in contemporary art icon.
Ocula discover the best in contemporary art icon.
Ocula Newsletter
Stay informed.
Receive our bi-weekly digest on the best of
contemporary art around the world.
Your personal data is held in accordance with our privacy policy.
Ocula discover the best in contemporary art icon.
Get Access
Join Ocula to request price and availability of artworks, exhibition price lists and build a collection of favourite artists, galleries and artworks.
Do you have an Ocula account? Login
What best describes your interest in art?

Subscribe to our newsletter for upcoming exhibitions, available works, events and more.
By clicking Sign Up or Continue with Facebook or Google, you agree to Ocula's Terms & Conditions. Your personal data is held in accordance with our Privacy Policy.
Thank you for joining us. Just one more thing...
Soon you will receive an email asking you to complete registration. If you do not receive it then you can check and edit the email address you entered.
Thank you for joining us.
You can now request price and availability of artworks, exhibition price lists and build a collection of favourite artists, galleries and artworks.
Welcome back to Ocula
Enter your email address and password below to login.
Reset Password
Enter your email address to receive a password reset link.
Reset Link Sent
We have sent you an email containing a link to reset your password. Simply click the link and enter your new password to complete this process.