Ukraine Launches Database of Art Once Owned by Sanctioned Russians – Robb Report

Ukraine has launched a searchable database of artworks recently owned by Russian nationals under Western sanctions amid the ongoing devastation of Ukraine by Russian forces. 

According to a report in the Guardian, the database is managed by Ukraine’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP), which said in a statement that the aim of the tool was to “make it easier for virtuous art market participants to carry out sanctions checks and make it difficult for Russian oligarchs to sell such assets.”

A slew of wealthy Russians, many of them arts patrons, have been hit with economic sanctions by the European Union, the UK, and the US intended to impede their ability to make or move money overseas since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2021. High-profile Russians named on Western sanction lists include Russia’s culture minister, Olga Lyubimova. Oligarchs Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov—both prolific blue-chip collectors—are among the individuals sanctioned by the EU. 

The new databases details the provenance, or history of ownership, of numerous prized artworks, including a portrait of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol acquired by close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Fridman, and Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which was once owned by the billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. (Rybolovlev auctioned Salvator Mundi at Christie’s in 2017, where it sold for $450.3 million.)

“Currently, the section contains information on more than 300 art objects,” the agency said. “Among their owners are Russian billionaire Viatcheslav Kantor, model Daria Zhukova, rapper Timur Yunusov (Timati) and other individuals who are under sanctions for directly supporting Russia’s war against Ukraine.”

(Daria Zhukova is more popularly known as Dasha Zhukova; she has not been sanctioned. A major patron in the art world, she also cofounded the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art with Abramovich, her ex-husband. She continues to serve on a number of museum boards, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the latter of which lists her as Dasha Niarchos, the surname of her current husband Stavros Niarchos II.)

The NACP added that Russian oligarchs have come under intensified scrutiny since the beginning of the war given their penchant to “hide and launder their money through art objects.” 

“Painting, sculptures, artistic jewelry—this is exactly what is used as a loophole to circumvent sanctions,” the agency said. “The ‘war and art’ section will contribute to the work on preventing the circumvention of sanctions, finding artistic assets of sanctioned Russians with the aim of their further freezing, confiscation and future transfer to Ukraine.”

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