In Russia, the artist’s painting was put up for auction Ivan Aivazovsky “Moonlight Night”. In 2014, it was illegally transferred to the Simferopol Art Museum among more than fifty canvases at the beginning of the Russian occupation of Crimea.
About the Russians’ plans to auction Aivazovsky’s painting reported in his X ex-deputy General Prosecutor, former prosecutor of Crimea Gunduz Mamedov.
He recalled that in 2017, at the request of the Prosecutor’s Office of Crimea, Interpol declared 52 paintings transferred to occupied Crimea to be internationally wanted.
“In this way, the Russian Federation openly disregards international law, because according to the UNESCO Convention of 1970, the export of cultural values and the transfer of ownership are prohibited“, – Mammadov emphasized.
Reports that “Moonlight Night” will be the main lot of the auction, which will be held at the Moscow Auction House on February 18, appeared in the Russian media. They note that before the sale, the picture is estimated at 100 million rubles (approx 1.09 million dollars).
|Screenshot from the website of the Moscow Auction House
In addition to Aivazovsky’s work, 123 works by artists of the XVIII-XX centuries will be put up for sale. Among them, six works Ilya Repinwork Isaac Levitan, Vasyl Vereshchagin, Mykola Roerich etc.
Russian mass media note that the auction will be held as an analogue of Christie’s and Sotheby’s (which refused “Russian auctions”), and also write that on the website you can “fill out the form for the export of art objects from Russia”.
How Russia stole “Moonlight”
On February 18, 2014, the Simferopol Art Museum and the Mariupol Museum of Local Lore signed an agreement on exhibiting paintings as part of the exhibition “Russian and Ukrainian art of the 18th – early 20th centuries”. On the same day, 52 paintings belonging to the Museum Fund of Ukraine arrived in Mariupol from Crimea. Among them were “Moonlight night” by Ivan Aivazovsky, “Road in the forest” by Ivan Shishkin, “Landscape. Evening” by Oleksiy Savrasov, “Swamp” by Isaac Levitan and others.
|“Moonlight night”. Ivan Aivazovsky
The exhibition in Mariupol was supposed to last until May 31, 2014, but it was closed earlier, because the management of the Simferopol Museum demanded the urgent return of the paintings to the territory of the then-occupied Crimea. On March 19, 2014, the Mariupol museum workers received a corresponding letter from the director of the Simferopol Art Museum.
In response, the head of the Mariupol Museum of Local History at the time, Olga Chaplinska, single-handedly terminated the agreement on the exhibition of paintings from Crimea. On March 20, the head of the funds department of the Art Museum named after A.I. Kuindzhi Nataliya Kuryonysheva handed over 52 exhibited paintings to the envoy.
|Employees of the Mariupol museum who gave the paintings to the occupiers
In August 2017, RFE/RL, citing Russian mass media, reported that paintings from the Mariupol museum were taken and delivered to the occupied peninsula by a group of retired military personnel from Crimea.
On August 17, 2017, the Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office of Crimea announced a wanted notice through Interpol channels for 50 paintings that were illegally transferred to the Simferopol Art Museum in March 2014.
|Interpol recognized the paintings as “stolen”
In September 2017, Chaplinska and Kuryonysheva were informed of the suspicion. They were threatened with imprisonment for a term of 7 to 12 years. But in February 2018, the court sentenced both women to three years in prison with a one-year ban on the right to hold positions related to the performance of organizational-administrative or administrative-economic duties. Moreover, by applying the amnesty law, the court released them from the prescribed punishment.
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