Russian Art Collection in Zagreb: Putin to Seek Paintings Worth Millions?

Total Croatia News

Russian diplomats in Zagreb are preparing for the first official visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Croatia, which could be organised next year. Putin and Croatian officials would undoubtedly have a number of important topics to discuss: gasification, Agrokor, Russian investments in Croatian companies, hotels, trade exchange, Ukrainian issue etc. But, according to the latest edition of the Express magazine, the question of paintings by Russian artist Nicholas Roerich (born as Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh) could also be in focus, reports on May 17, 2019.

The issue includes the possible return of ten of his valuable paintings that have been held by the Modern Gallery in Zagreb for more than 85 years. Russian Ambassador Azimov has opened the issue of giving these paintings to Russia, the country which Roerich left in 1917 and never came back. Although the paintings are well taken care of by the Modern Gallery, Ambassador Azimov said Russia would ask for them because there “would be more interest for them there.”

Before the return of the works, it is necessary to determine the ownership, which is why the Russian Embassy has opened talks with the Croatian Ministry of Culture. “We have held talks with representatives of the ministry and the museum. They are ready to discuss this issue constructively, but it also raises the question of whether there are any documents that the Russian side can present to prove its ownership of the paintings. We believe that the extensive correspondence between Roerich, his assistants and the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences from the early 1930s exists in the archives in Belgrade,” Azimov told the Russian news agency TASS.

The Culture Ministry also issued a statement. “The handover of paintings between the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts and the founder of the Modern Gallery, the Croatian Art Society “Strossmayer”, took place in 1934, and there is an official record. The paintings are protected cultural heritage which has been registered in the Register of Cultural Goods of the Republic of Croatia. According to the Law on Protection and Conservation of Cultural Goods, their permanent, unlimited removal from Croatia is not allowed,” said the ministry.

Igor Zidić, a renowned art historian and the director of the Modern Gallery from the late 1980s to 2008, agrees with the ministry. “Somebody is obviously questioning the ownership. If the paintings are registered in inventory books, then there can be no doubt. No institution in the country would decide to hand over the paintings. That is how it used to be 45 years ago. For example, Nikita Khrushchev came to Split and received one of Vidović’s oil paintings that was supposed to go to Vidović’s museum. This is no longer permissible,” said Zidić.

Roerich created more than 7,000 works during his career. His works reach a price of several hundred thousand dollars at auctions, while the famous painting “Madonna Laboris” was sold several years ago for nearly 70 million. The value of the collection at the Modern Gallery is estimated at millions of euros.

Translated from (reported by Antonija Vrčić/Express).

More news about relations between Croatia and Russia can be found in the Politics section.


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