The spokesman declined to say where the works were being held, “for obvious security reasons”.
Until April 3, the two paintings were on display at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris as part of ‘The Morozov Collection: Icons of Modern Art’, a massive exhibition of works that once belonged to Russian textile magnates Ivan and Mikhail Morozov. Their collection, which includes works by Gauguin, Van Gogh and Picasso, was expropriated and state property about a century ago, after the October Revolution.
Most of the paintings in the exhibition came from Russian state museums, including the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. Under a 1994 French law designed to encourage international art lending, those works cannot be seized by French authorities because they were loaned by a foreign government, said Freda Matassa, an art consultant who helped develop of a similar anti-epilepsy law in Great Britain.
But, Ms Matassa said, French law does not apply to works owned by private individuals.
Representatives from Mr. Aven and the Museum of Avant-Garde Mastery did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for the Louis Vuitton Foundation also said she would not comment.
Even before the repossessions, some art transport companies expected Morozov Collection’s works to face difficulties returning to Russia, as the war in Ukraine has disrupted traditional air and road freight routes. The most direct route to Russia from Western Europe is now via Finland, but last week Finnish customs officials seized three shipments of fine art at the border between the two countries, suspecting the shipment was in violation of sanctions imposed by the authorities. European Union. The works were quickly released when they were found to be outside the scope of the sanctions.
The French Ministry of Culture said it is also keeping a third painting from “The Morozov Collection” in Paris for security reasons. That work, “Portrait of Margarita Kirillovna Morozova” (1910), by Serov, belongs to the Dnipropetrovsk Art Museum, in the city of Dnipro in eastern Ukraine, which is expected to be the subject of a Russian attack soon. Ukrainian authorities have requested that the painting remain in Paris until it can be returned safely, the culture ministry spokesman said.