Latest Crackdown on Russia: $46M Worth of Art

Customs officials in Finland seize paintings, sculptures, antiquities
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2022 9:25 AM CDT
Finland Seizes Russian Art Worth $46M
Seen here is Titian's "Portrait of a Young Woman with Feather Hat," which was on loan to Italy from St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum.   (Wikimedia Commons)

(Newser) – Some $46 million worth of art on loan from Russian galleries to museums in Japan and Italy has been seized on the return trip. Customs officials in Finland seized the paintings, sculptures, and antiquities in three shipments at the Vaalimaa crossing of the Finland-Russia border on Friday and Saturday, in accordance with European Union sanctions against Russia, per the Washington Post. While Finnish customs officials did not give details on the artwork, Russia's Culture Ministry said Italy received items from the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and the Hermitage Museum and the Tsarskoye Selo state museum in St. Petersburg, while items on loan to Japan came from the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, per Reuters.

The Hermitage requested the early return of works by Pablo Picasso, Titian, and Antonio Canova from Milan in early March, before the EU introduced sanctions banning the sale, supply, transfer, or export of luxury goods, including artwork, to Russia, per Artnet News, which suggests it was these pieces that were confiscated. "Finnish Customs will keep the art seized while they are needed for investigation as evidence. What happens next will depend on the outcome of the investigation," Sami Rakshit, director of Finnish Customs’ Enforcement Department, tells the Post. "We are not going to open the packages," Customs Enforcement Director Hannu Sinkkonen tells the AFP, describing the artworks as "priceless."

Last month, Finnish Customs seized a 105-foot superyacht linked to former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and barred another 21 yachts thought to be owned by Russian oligarchs from leaving the country, per the Helsinki Times. "We don't assume that all the detained yachts fall under sanctions, but that is what we are trying to determine now," Rakshit said at the time, per Insider. In a new release, Rakshit notes "it is important that the enforcement of sanctions works effectively." French officials may feel differently. Per Artnet, the country has agreed to return 200 paintings on loan to Paris' Fondation Louis Vuitton from Russia, including pieces by Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, and Vincent Van Gogh, though "exactly how the artworks will travel back to Russia remains unclear." (Read more Russia sanctions stories.)

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