A trove of paintings and rare books from the collection of a fugitive Russian billionaire has been found near Moscow. The art had been missing from Alexei Ananyev’s private museum, the Institute of Russian Realist Art (IRRA), and was allegedly found in a storage facility next to the Church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God. The Russian journalism website Mash.ru first broke the story earlier this month.
Ananyev made his fortune in IT and banking with his brother Dmitry, and was well known in Russia for owning the largest collection of Socialist Realism in the country. He opened the IRRA for his collection in 2011, which included around 500 works by artists like Alexander Deinek, Arkady Plastov, and Sergei and Alexei Tkachev, according to ARTnews.
But the institution came under scrutiny in 2017 when the Ananyevs’ bank, Promsvyazbank, was bailed out by the state and transferred to new ownership. The new management claimed hundreds of millions of rubles worth of art was missing from the IRRA, which the museum denied, according to The Art Newspaper. The museum’s art director also said ownership of the collection was transferred to a foundation separate from Ananyev and his bank years ago. The IRRA’s website says the museum is “closed indefinitely.”
The recently discovered art will most likely be distributed among state museums, according to Russian lawyer Andrei Knyazev. Knyazev told Kommersant FM radio, according to TAN:
When items of artistic and historical value are seized, they will not be auctioned off. But there is no principle by which they are distributed, in this case there will be many contenders and likely it will be determined who will be able to most diligently manage the collection and display it.
As for Alexei and Dmitry Ananyev, the brothers are currently on the run—Russia has put them on an international wanted list and a court in Moscow ruled in September to charge the brothers with embezzlement of over 100 billion rubles ($1.6 billion). Alexei Ananyev had an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion in 2017, according to Forbes.