Abramovich has hidden his art collection worth almost $1 billion from sanctions

Abramovich has hidden his art collection worth almost $1 billion from sanctions

Unless some solution is found, this collection will remain invisible for a very long time, art historians complain

Abramovich has hidden his art collection worth almost $1 billion from sanctions

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and his ex-wife Daria Zhukova own a collection of paintings through a Cyprus trust. This topic was investigated by the publication "Important Stories" together with The Guardian and several other publications, having studied the leaked files of the Cypriot business registrar MeritServus.

The collection includes dozens of masterpieces: Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, Lucien Freud, Alberto Giacometti, Claude Monet, René Magritte, and others.

The collection of paintings is registered with Seline-Invest, a company based in the British Virgin Islands. This company is controlled by the Cyprus-based Ermis Trust Settlement. It was founded in 2010, and Abramovich was its sole beneficiary.

In the description of the paintings, for example, there is a "Suprematist Composition" by Kazimir Malevich. It was not previously known that it belonged to Abramovich. In 2000, an unknown buyer purchased it at auction for $17 million.

In total, according to The Guardian, as of 2018, Abramovich owned 367 works of art worth $963 million.

As the journalists found out, Abramovich and Zhukova divided their shares in the trust in half in early 2021. On February 4, 2022, three weeks before the outbreak of war, Abramovich conceded 1% to Zhukova, reducing his share to 49%.

Experts interviewed by journalists claim that this decision could have been made to reduce the risk of sanctions. A beneficiary with 49% ownership in certain countries can avoid asset confiscation.

A month after the stake reduction, Abramovich was sanctioned by the EU and the UK. His assets, including the Chelsea football club, were frozen.

It is not known where Abramovich and Zhukova keep the paintings. These works of art have rarely been exhibited before, and now they are likely to be lost to the public for a long time.

"It is sad that the trust that manages the paintings seems to be no longer able to provide them to museums. The sanctions were imposed for obvious reasons. It turns out that Abramovich's investments in art have led to the fact that people are now deprived of the opportunity to see some of the great works of our time," Georgina Adam, an expert in the field of art markets, explained to the publication.

The publication notes that, for example, when the first exhibition of Lucien Freud in ten years opened at the British National Gallery in October 2022, it lacked several of his iconic paintings that belonged to the Abramovich and Zhukova trust.

"It's an impressive collection, and you could create a whole museum from it alone. It is tragic that unless some solution is found, this collection will remain invisible for a very long time," said Andrew Renton, Professor at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Background. Meanwhile, it was reported that Russian oligarchs continue to get richer: their wealth has increased by $32 billion since the beginning of the year.

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