The Russian billionaire has offered to buy two controversial statues for which protesters want to be removed from American cities because of a worrying connection to racism and colonialism.
The Art Russe Foundation of businessman Andrei Filatov, which collects and preserves Soviet-era art, said it was willing to buy paintings by Theodore Roosevelt and immigrant Alexander Baranov, based in New York and Alaska, respectively, because both men left a “positive mark” on Russia,
Two statues are among hundreds across America facing calls to tear them down after Black Lives Matter protests sparked debates over the memorialization of various historical figures across the country. The Filatov Foundation hopes to bring them to St. Petersburg in the name of preserving “cultural and historical heritage.”
“We deeply respect and appreciate individuals who have contributed to the development of Russia and been connected to the history of our country,” a spokesman for the Art Russe Foundation said in an e-mail statement.
“Both the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Governor of Russian Settlements in North America, Alexander Baranov, were statesmen who left their positive mark on Russian history. Therefore, we see the need to preserve their memories for future generations.”
Andrey Filatov Credit: Georges Gobet / AFP / Getty Images
Faced with protests
Currently found in front of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Roosevelt statue in question has long faced vandalism and called for its removal because of a depiction of American descent and a black man standing at the feet of the American president,
A statue of the horseman Theodore Roosevelt, sitting in front of the American Museum of Natural History. Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP / AFP via Getty Images
Roosevelt’s place in Russian history stems from his role through a treaty between Russia and Japan in 1904, ending the end of a year-and-a-half-long war between those countries. His role in the treaty, also known as the Portsmouth Treaty, won him the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.
Alexander Baranov, meanwhile, was a trader who once ruled Russian America – parts of North America owned by Russia before they were sold to the United States in so-called Alaska shopping. Branik’s bronze sculpture has been in the city of Sitka since 1989, although Indian communities there have called for it to be torn down.
Statue of Alexander Ivanovich Baranov, Sitka, Baranof Island, Alaska, USA Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Showing art to “people”
The 48-year-old is also known as a chess player, and serves as president of the Russian Chess Federation.
In 2012, Filatov founded the Art Russe Foundation to collect Russian art – primarily from the Soviet era (1917-1991) – which he then lent to museums and galleries.
The Art Russe Foundation has confirmed that it has written to Sitka City Hall, the American Museum of Natural History and the unspecified “New York authorities” to express its interest in the two statues. The spokesman did not say how much was – or would be – offered, instead he said that “the monetary value of the works of art is subject to negotiation”.
The spokesman added that the Russian city of St. Petersburg would be the “appropriate host city” for the statues.