Russian Oligarch Exits Board of Guggenheim After Twenty Years

March 03, 2022

Vladimir Potanin, the president of the world’s largest high-grade nickel producer and one of Russia’s richest oligarchs, tendered his resignation as a board member of New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on March 2. Potanin joined the board in 2002 and has been a major benefactor of the institution through his foundation funding numerous exhibitions there, including a survey of the work of Wassily Kandinsky, which is currently on display. No reason was cited for his departure, though the New York Times noted that Potanin was one of a group of oligarchs who last week met with Putin at the Kremlin as Russia continued its attack on Ukraine. In a press release regarding Potanin’s departure, the museum was oblique regarding Potanin’s connection to Russian power but firm in its support of Ukraine.

“Vladimir Potanin has advised the Board of Trustees of his decision to step down as Trustee effective immediately,” the Guggenheim statement read. “The Guggenheim accepts this decision and thanks Mr. Potanin for his service to the Museum and his support of exhibition, conservation and educational programs. The Guggenheim strongly condemns the Russian invasion and unprovoked war against the government and people of Ukraine.”

The Norilsk Nickel chief, who also holds a controlling stake in Russian drug company Petrovax Pharm, has a net worth of $25.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index. The Washington Post reported that he is a benefactor of Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, where he funded the creation of the Russian Lounge in 2011, to the tune of $5 million. Potanin also donated artworks to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and was subsequently awarded the French Legion of Honor. His departure from the Guggenheim board comes just days after Russian billionare Petr Aven stepped down from the board of London’s Royal Academy after he was placed on the EU’s sanction list in relation to Ukraine.