From Andy Warhol to Da Vinci: Ukraine Created a Database to Track $1.3 Billion in Art by Sanctioned Russian Oligarchs

Salvator Mundi was acquired by billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, although it has been sold (Getty)

Nails 300 works of art that would be owned by Russian citizens under Western sanctions are now part of a searchable database created by the National Agency of Ukraine for the Prevention of Corruption (NACP). Your goal is that the Russian oligarchs cannot circumvent the sanctions by benefiting from the sale of pieces of art valued in millions, in one of the most irregular markets in the world, as is the art market.

On the “war and sanctions portal,” the agency lists paintings and sculptures believed to have been bought and sold in recent years by Russian tycoons, such as the Francis Bacon triptych believed to be part of the collection of the former owner of the Chelsea football club, Roman Abramovich.

The agency explains that its goal with this platform is to “make it easier for virtuous art market participants to carry out sanctions checks and make it more difficult for Russian oligarchs to sell such assets.”

The estimated value of the identified works is 1.3 billion dollars.

The sanctions, which are intended to undermine the Russian economy and divert war funds from the country and those who fuel the machinery, do not prevent those affected by them from being able to sell paintings and sculptures of immense value with relative ease across national borders without alert the authorities.

Mikhail Fridman is believed to own one of the iconic silkscreen prints of Marilyn Monroe, by Andy Warhol
Mikhail Fridman is believed to own one of the iconic silkscreen prints of Marilyn Monroe, by Andy Warhol

The database will allow art market players to verify that they are not trading in sanctioned goods.

“Russian oligarchs, despite the sanctions imposed on them, can still easily hide and launder their money through art objects. Paintings, sculptures, artistic jewelry: this is exactly what is used as a loophole to evade sanctions,” says the agency’s page.

According to a report from the Financial Action Task Forcean intergovernmental laundering watchdog, the market for antiques, art and cultural objects had a global value of 65.1 billion dollars in 2021.

“Paintings, sculptures, artistic jewelry – this is exactly what is used as a loophole to circumvent sanctions,” the Ukrainian agency said. “The ‘war and art’ section will contribute to the work of preventing sanctions circumvention by finding artistic assets of sanctioned Russians with the aim of freezing, confiscating and transferring them in the future to Ukraine.”

Bacon's work acquired by Roman Abramovich
Bacon’s work acquired by Roman Abramovich

Some of the oligarchs mentioned on the platform are Roman Abramovichnotorious buyer of art, who acquired, among many others, a triptych by Francis Bacon from 1976 and The Woman of Venice I by Alberto Giacometti. An estimate of the works purchased puts the total value at $163.9 million.

It is also revealed that Salvator Mundia controversial work (believed to be by Leonardo Da Vinci but disputed) dating to around 1500, was acquired by the billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, although it has subsequently been sold. On the other hand, it is said that mikhail fridmannan ally of Vladimir Putin and co-founder of the Russian multinational Alfa Group, acquired an iconic screen print of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol in 2013.

“Currently, the section contains information on more than 300 art objects. Among its owners are the Russian billionaire Viatcheslav Kantorthe model Darya Zhukova, the rapper Timur Yunusov (Timati) and other people who are under sanctions for directly supporting Russia’s war against Ukraine,” the agency says. A work by Wassily Kandinsky, valued at USD 23 million, is listed as property of petr avena UK-sanctioned oligarch who has strong ties to President Putin.

The agency also requests open source information about the ownership of other works.

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