Last month Financial Times Ltd. reported this story about the fate of The Black Square by Kazimir Malevich.
“The leading creditors of a bankrupt Russian bank are this week likely to decide the fate of one of world’s greatest modern paintings, Black Square, by Kazimir Malevich.
The work could be worth $20 mln on the open market, experts said. But Russia’s culture ministry will probably refuse it an export license, obliging the bank’s liquidators to auction the picture within Russia, where it risks fetching much less.
Black Square, which looks very much as the name implies, was the pride of an art collection built up in the 1990s by Inkombank.
Inkombank was briefly Russia’s fifth-largest bank, with assets of some $3 bn before the financial crisis of August 1998 plunged it into bankruptcy.
It was holding large forward contracts to buy foreign currencies, just as the rouble collapsed.
Inkombank lodged its best paintings with the culture ministry to stop them being seized by creditors.
Now, with the bank in an orderly receivership, a creditors’ committee is due to discuss on Thursday how to realize the value of these and other remaining assets.
Malevich, who died in 1935, painted four Black Squares at various times. They rank among the most radical and influential paintings of the last century.
Three of them hang in Russian state museums. The fourth, which Inkombank bought from the artist’s family, is locked in a warehouse belonging to the Russian ministry of culture.
This painting could be auctioned overseas if the culture ministry gave a special export license.
But official sources say an export license would be almost unprecedented for such a work, even though Russia has three versions of it already.
That refusal could cost creditors dearly. The top bid in Russia may prove a fraction of the price the Black Square would fetch if offered in London or New York.
Paintings by Malevich are rare on the world market. The most recent offered, another abstract composition, was sold in London in May for $17.05 mln.”
Source: The Financial Times, Jan 17, 2001.