Jewish Journal

The Met nixes Russian art loan over Chabad archive


August 15, 2011 | 9:37 pm

Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Arad

Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Arad

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art reportedly has canceled plans for an art loan to a Russian museum in the ongoing dispute over a Chasidic archive.

The Metropolitan Museum had planned to lend 35 items by fashion designer Paul Poiret to the Kremlin Museum in Moscow for a September show. A number of loans between the two museums have been affected by the dispute over the archive of religious books and documents, which a U.S. District Court in Brooklyn has ruled belongs to the Chabad movement.

Russian officials have warned their country’s museums that artworks traveling to the United States could be seized to force the release of the archive.

“It is going to be the policy of the museum that there has to be some equity for lending to be resumed,” Met spokesman Harold Holzer told Art Info.

The archive of 12,000 books and 50,000 other documents assembled by Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn was seized during the Russian Revolution and the Nazi invasion, and then later by the Russian army.

The Russian Cultural Ministry in contesting the ruling in the U.S. court claims that Schneerson had no heirs when he left Russia.

“One American organization made a completely illegitimate claim on this collection of books,” Russian Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev told the Straits Times in January. “We have our own believers who respect these books no less.”

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