The art collection of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, which was estimated to be worth nearly $1 billion in 2018, has recently come to light following a leak of confidential records from a financial services company based in Cyprus. The collection contains about 300 works of art, including works by legends like Francis Bacon, Edgar Degas, Lucian Freud, and Pablo Picasso.
The origin of this revelation lies in the “Oligarch Files,” a leak from MeritServus. These files, scrutinized by international media outlets, elucidate the ownership structure of the art collection. Seline-Invest, an entity initially registered in the British Virgin Islands and later redomiciled to Jersey, held the collection.
Among the notable works in the collection is Lucian Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, acquired for a record-breaking £17 million in 2008. The collection’s opulence is further accentuated by the acquisition of Francis Bacon’s Triptych for $86 million and the presence of at least ten pieces valued at over $25 million.
In a significant development, Abramovich’s ex-wife’s ownership stake in the trust was increased to 51 percent via a “deed of amendment” in February 2022, just prior to the sanctions imposed on Abramovich. This maneuver aimed to safeguard the collection from asset freezes, and it notably preceded the imposition of sanctions on Abramovich by both the UK and the EU.
The collection is not covered by an asset freezing order, but Abramovich’s sanctions prevented the National Gallery in London from carrying out a loan deal with the Ermis Trust that was related to Lucian Freud’s works last year for the exhibition Lucian Freud: New Perspectives. However, several pieces from the collection have already been loaned out, including two pieces by Paula Rego that were displayed in 2021 at her Tate Britain retrospective.
Roman Abramovich still stands out among the affluent Russian oligarchs of the 1990s who have maintained their influence throughout Putin’s rule, with an estimated net worth of around $10 billion.
Featured Image: Lucian Freud, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995). The painting broke records when it was sold to Roman Abramovich in 2008 for $33.6 million. Courtesy of Lucian Freud Archive and Bridgeman Images