Leaders of Major Russian Art Institutions Resign as Ukraine War Intensifies

March 04, 2022

Russia is seeing a talent drain at the highest levels of its art museums and cultural institutions as their directors depart their positions in protest of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Many of these leaders are leaving of their own accord, but context suggests that some may have been forced out after failing to vocalize their support for the attack.

Among those stepping down from elevated roles are Vladimir Opredelenov, the veteran deputy director of Moscow’s Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, who clarified in an Instagram post, “My attitude to current world events does not coincide with that of my colleagues from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. I hope this will change in the near future, but with things as they are, I am forced to leave my beloved museum.”

At Moscow’s V-A-C Foundation, director Francesco Manacorda resigned his post as artistic director, which he had held since 2017, telling Russian news agency TASS, “Unfortunately, current events have changed my working and personal conditions significantly, so I have come to the conclusion that I will not be able to continue working with the same dedication that I could be proud of.” Manacorda noted that his “decision was made with great difficulty and regret.” The V-A-C, which is additionally based in Venice, operates Moscow’s recently inaugurated GES-2 museum, which on Sunday announced that it was halting all exhibitions and events. Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson earlier that week ended his exhibition there a month early, citing the “horror” taking place in Ukraine.

Simon Rees, since 2019 the artistic director at Cosmoscow, revealed last week that he was severing relations with the art fair, pointing to the economic impact on Europeans, particularly those of low economic status, of Putin’s actions in Ukraine. Cosmoscow did not openly condemn the Russian invasion but publicly acknowledged that “the human and political tragedy that is happening concerns absolutely everyone.”