MOSCOW, March 9. /TASS/. Russia’s Oriental Art Museum has received for custody 57 packages with paintings by renowned Russian artists Svyatoslav and Nikolai Roerich seized by investigators in an ex-banker’s fraud probe, Museum Director Alexander Sedov told TASS on Thursday.
The further fate of these paintings seized at Moscow’s International Center of the Roerichs on March 7 in a criminal case against the former owner of the now defunct Master Bank is unknown, the director said.
"The paintings by the Roerichs are in the Oriental Art Museum as material evidence. I can’t say exactly how many paintings are here: there are 57 packages and we can’t unpack them as they were sealed off by the Investigative Committee. All further actions depend on investigative bodies while we are acting as a storage facility," the museum director said.
"As far as I know, the talk is about the seizure of the paintings that were transferred to the International Center of the Roerichs by [Boris] Bulochnik [the ex-banker currently in hiding]. The paintings were seized on the grounds that they were purchased with stolen money," the museum director said.
As spokeswoman for Russia’s Interior Ministry Irina Volk earlier told TASS, during investigative and search measures at the International Center of the Roerichs on Tuesday, law enforcement officers "seized the paintings by Nikolai and Svyatoslav Roerichs acquired by the former chairman of a Moscow bank’s management board with the funds stolen from the credit institution."
However, as TASS learnt from law-enforcement agencies, the talk was about former co-owner of Master-Bank Boris Bulochnik. As the source said, Bulochnik was transferring the paintings by the renowned Russian artists, philosophers and public figures Nikolai and Svyatoslav Roerich to the Roerichs Center as he was the center’s sponsor.
Position of the International Center of the Roerichs
Meanwhile, Vice-President of the International Center of the Roerichs Alexander Stetsenko told TASS that the "the International Center of the Roerichs and the museum had no relation to Master-Bank."
"We had art patron Boris Bulochnik. Master-Bank did not transfer any accounts to us. The paintings donated since 2002 were seized. And the investigators said that they had been purchased with stolen money. How? Seventeen years ago, Bulochnik was purchasing the paintings abroad and returning them to the home country, Russia," Stetsenko said.
According to him, a total of 49 paintings and 145 drawings comprising about 200 most valuable exhibits were seized by the investigators.
Nikolai Roerich is a Russian artist, traveler, writer and public figure. He made expeditions to India, China, Mongolia and other Central and East Asian countries. He is the author of the idea and the initiator of adopting an international agreement on the protection of cultural monuments (the so-called Roerich Pact signed by a number of countries in the 1930-1940s). His works lay the basis for the art collection of the International Center of the Roerichs.
Roerichs’ heritage and Oriental Art Museum
Several years, ago, the International Center of the Roerichs was claiming some of the Roerichs’ heritage through a court: almost 300 paintings that are part of Russia’s museum stock and are kept in the Oriental Art Museum.
In June 2014, the Moscow City Court refused to grant the Center’s lawsuit. The court also ruled that the International Center of the Roerichs was not a legal successor to the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs.
Also, in December 2015, Russia’s State Property Management Agency transferred the Lopoukhins’ estate in Moscow’s Maly Znamensky by-street currently accommodating the International Center of the Roerichs to the Oriental Art Museum for housing its affiliate: the Museum of the Roerich family.