In a case involving a a Jewish religious group called Chabad, a US District Court last summer ruled that Russia must restore a trove of religious books and manuscripts to Chabad, a prominent international ministry based in New York City, The Los Angeles Times reports. Adding that despite diplomatic assurances to the contrary, Russian officials now claim to fear that art shipped to American museums could be seized as collateral in advance of settling the case.
The case is having direct impact on loans to US museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which is facing the possibility of not showing 38 works in part of an Islamic art exhibit set to open in little more than a week. "Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts" will move ahead with or without the pieces from Russia, a museum spokesman said.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has also been impacted, when it did not receive works for a recent Cezanne exhibit. The Getty Museum was unable to get French artwork from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Chabad is an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic group that won a case involving ancient books and manuscripts from a collection known as the Schneerson that was seized during the Russian Revolution and World War II. The religious movement began in Russia in the 18th century. A judge ordered the texts to be returned after a six-year legal proceeding.
Russian cultural institutions are now claiming to be worried that other art works could be held in lieu of the many thousands of texts Chabald is waiting to receive.
The organization said in court documents recently that, "Chabad does not seek to disrupt in any manner the nonprofit exchange of art and cultural objects between the Russian and American people, which is fully protected by the law of the United States."