The Tate, which oversees four of the United Kingdom’s premier art institutions, has cut ties with Russian oligarchs Viktor Vekselberg and Petr Aven, both of whom have provided funding to the museum network in the past. The move came after calls for the Tate to stop taking money from members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Vekselberg, an energy magnate with an estimated net worth of $16 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index, was targeted in the United States’s latest sanctions on Russian business moguls. Vekselberg, who owns the energy conglomerate Renova Group, gave a donation in 2015 to support Tate Modern’s revamp of its permanent collection hang.
He formerly held an honorary membership with the British institution, a title that Tate said was now stripped. In a statement obtained by the Guardian, Vekselberg called the sanctioning “unfounded,” adding that the move “seems to rely on demonstratively baseless assumptions.”
Vekselberg, who amassed his wealth in the oil and aluminum industries was recently targeted by the U.S. Department of Treasury in the latest round of international penalties against Russian oligarchs; the agency has sanctioned Vekeselberg and his company since 2018. In a statement, the department said he has “maintained close ties” with Putin. Prior to the sanctions, through donations from his foundation and private company, Vekselberg had also given funds to Carnegie Hall and the Museum of Modern Art.
Aven, who runs Alfa-Bank, one of Russia’s largest financial institutions, was targeted with E.U. sanctions at the end of February following the Russia military’s attack on Ukraine. He was a member of a Tate donor program known as the International Council and European Collection Circle. The museum said in a statement that he is no longer associated with those boards.
Earlier this month, Aven stepped from the board of London’s Royal Academy of Arts, where he had been a trustee since 2014. The museum said it would return his donation funding its current exhibition “Francis Bacon: Man and Beast.”