Maybe it was the news of the $60 million Malevich sale that gave President Medvedev the idea that he should start a paper trail of his own country’s looted treasures. Who knows?
Bloomberg’s John Varoli reports that the Russians are looking into the legality of sales from the Hermitage but it would seem the move is a way to establish a set of counter-claims against anyone seeking the return of works presently in Russian museums:
“The Hermitage has no plans to demand the return of artworks from anyone,” said Piotrovsky. “This is not possible today. However, we plan to resist attempts to make us return items, whether it is Germany or the Russian Orthodox Church, which have claims against Russian museums. Museum items, wherever they are, should remain in their museum collections.” Piotrovsky was referring to German claims asking Russia to return artworks that Soviet troops looted during and after World War II. The Hermitage has hundreds of so-called “trophy” artworks taken from German collections.