Tate Severs Ties With Two Oligarch Donors as a New Round of Sanctions Hit Russian Elites

Viktor Vekselberg and Petr Aven are no longer affiliated with the museum group.

The Tate Modern and and London Millennium Bridge on the River Thames. Photo by Acabashi, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

The Tate has severed ties with sanctioned Russian billionaires Viktor Vekselberg and Petr Aven, nearly a week after the group of four U.K. galleries faced growing calls to cut relations with those close to Vladimir Putin.

The news emerged after Vekselberg became a target of the U.S. Department of Treasury’s latest sanctions on Russian elites, according to an announcement on Friday. Aven was hit with E.U. sanctions at the end of February, just after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Vekselberg donated to Tate seven years ago and no longer holds his honorary membership title,” the Tate said in a statement to Artnet News.

This was a change from the statement Artnet News received on March 2, which said Vekselberg was an honorary member of the Tate Foundation, but that “there is no ongoing connection.” Vekselberg has not held the honorary title since last Monday, Tate said.

Vekselberg, an energy tycoon, has an estimated net worth exceeding $6 billion, according to the Department of Treasury, which said that he has close ties with Russian government officials, including Putin and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. An aircraft and a yacht valued at a total of $180 million that belong to the tycoon were identified by the department’s office of foreign assets control as blocked property. He was already placed on a U.S. sanction list in 2018, and claimed that he had more than $1.5 billion worth of assets frozen since then.

Tate added that another Russian billionaire, Aven, who was sanctioned by the European Union on February 28, was not associated with Tate anymore. “Mr. Aven is no longer associated with Tate’s International Council or European Collection Circle. This was also confirmed a week ago,” a Tate spokesperson said.

Aven stepped down as trustee of the Royal Academy in London at the beginning of the month, and the prominent institution returned the donation that the art collector made in support of the exhibition “Francis Bacon: Man and Beast,” which runs at the museum until April 17.

In the U.S., Vladimir Potanin, one of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs, stepped down from the board of the Guggenheim Museum earlier this month.

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