Russia warns UK over its rare artwork exhibition in London

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Moscow, Dec 24 (UNI) Russian Culture and Mass Communications Minister Alexander Sokolov today warned that the London exhibition of masterpieces from four Russian museums will not take place in the first week of 2008, as scheduled, if Britain does provide relevant security guarantees.

''If this law is adopted shortly after the New Year, this means that we will have time. If not, then no,'' Mr Sokolov told Interfax news agency, noting Britain needs to adopt the law to adequately protect art from seizure, in the first week of 2008.

The exhibition, ''From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings 1870-1925,'' is scheduled to open at The Royal Academy of Arts on January 26.

There were doubts about the exhibition after the Russian Federal Cultural and Cinematography Agency said earlier that British laws did not adequately protect art from seizure in connection with private legal claims.

It said the rare paintings from Russian museums will be permitted to go to London for a major exhibition after British legislation protecting art from seizure comes into force.

Last week, London gave guarantee that Britain would move up the effective date of a provision in new legislation to bar seizure of art loaned on a government-to-government basis.

The provision, due to come into force in late February, would now become effective on or about January 7.

Culture Agency spokeswoman Natalya Uvarova said her office would issue licenses for the paintings to go to London after the British law came into force.

The Agency's chief Mikhail Shvydkoi said descendants of two prominent 19th and early 20th-century Russian art patrons and collectors Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov, had not ruled out legal action in Britain.

Among the works are masterpieces of Matisse and van Gogh, from their collections, which were seized by the state after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.


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