Statue of Yuri Gagarin (a copy of a
LONDON/MOSCOW. The serious tensions in political and cultural relations between the UK and Russia (stemming from the UK's insistence that Russia extradite former KGB agent Andrei Lugovo in connection with the murder of dissident Alexander Litvinenko in 2006) have eased leading to a greater exchange of art between the two countries. What started out as a rift in political relations soon spilled over into the cultural sphere as Russia increasingly misidentified the British Council as a political rather than a cultural institution. The Art Newspaper reports that "in late 2007, following the extradition row, the Russian authorities accused the British Council of evading tax and in December the council was ordered to shut its offices in St Petersburg and Ekaterinburg. On 15 January 2008, the head of the St Petersburg office, Stephen Kinnock, was detained on alleged traffic offences. Later that year court action was taken to pursue tax payments." The tax evasion problems are said to have been resolved now though the normalisation of Anglo-Russian cultural relations is largely due to the lessening extradition pressures exerted by the coalition government compared with those by the former Labour government. The result: a line-up of exhibitions as well as the unveiling on July 14 of a statue of the "cosmonaunt" Yuri Gagarin outside the British Council's headquarters in London. Upcoming exhibitions include:
- Antony Gormley at the Hermitage (from September).
- British Council assistance with the Fourth Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (22 September-30 October).
- “William Blake and British Visionary Art” exhibition sent by the Tate to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art (from November).
- Models by Anish Kapoor at Moscow's Museum of Architecture (from December).
- Henry Moore exhibition at the Kremlin Museum (February 2012).
- The Tate's “Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde” exhibition expected to show at the Pushkin (June 2013).