UK Museums Loan Artworks to Russia Amidst Political Tensions

Cabinet (1905) by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Photo via: Moscow Kremlin Museums
Cabinet (1905) by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Photo via: Moscow Kremlin Museums

An exhibition celebrating the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh—the Scottish designer and architect who designed the ill-fated Glasgow School of Art—will open in Moscow’s Kremlin Museums this week. The exhibition will display several key pieces from Mackintosh’s oeuvre, loaned from leading UK museums despite the mounting tension between the UK and Russian governments, with David Cameron recently comparing Vladimir Putin to Hitler over the Ukraine crisis.

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) in Edinburgh, and Glasgow Life, which runs Glasgow’s museums among other institutions, have decided to go ahead with the big loans to Moscow. “Our trustees are obviously very mindful of the wider political context but feel that is important for cultural dialogue and exchange to continue,” the director of the NGS, John Leighton, told the Art Newspaper.

The Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibition is part of the UK-Russia Year of Culture, which has been overshadowed by the deteriorating relationship between the West and Russia. Last summer the UK government withdrew its support of UK-Russia events, which continue to be co-ordinated by the British Council. A big Francis Bacon retrospective, scheduled to open next December at the Hermitage, will carry on as planned. However, an exhibition about the Young British Artists due to open in September at the Ekaterina Foundation in Moscow, has already been called off (“YBAs Russian Debut Cancelled Due to Lack of Funds“).

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