Apollo Magazine

Are all the V&A’s chickens coming home to roost?

Rakewell laments what has been a rather dismal week for the Grande Dame of South Kensington, involving the UK government and a Russian-owned Fabergé egg

The Hen Egg (1884-85), Carl Fabergé. Courtesy of V&A

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Pity the poor V&A. Not content with collecting one slight issue this week now they seem to have two. Rakewell is no stranger to unjust accusations being flung around but the stony faced façade of the Grande Dame of South Kensington seems to conceal multitudes at the moment.

First there was the revelation that a private tour of the museum had been auctioned off at a Tory party fundraising auction. Never fear – the shadow minister for culture has written a letter so we are sure this will all become clear very soon as it is so unlikely that servants of a public institution that is held at arm’s length from the government would ever entertain people to gild a political party. We all know that would be quite wrong.

Talking of gilt, there is also the problem of the Fabergé egg. Who can resist these intricate masterpieces of lavish detail. Certainly not the thousands of visitors to the V&A’s most recent exhibition that was rightly acclaimed a triumph.

While everyone knows the eggs were made in Russia, no one could have predicted the change in temperature around Russian-owned things which puts the V&A in a rather sticky situation. One of those pesky Imperial eggs was bought by Viktor Vekselberg who somewhat inconveniently is now on the list of sanctioned Russians. As reported by The Art Newspaper, the ownership of the egg is currently registered to a Panama-based company Lamesa Arts Inc, which should mean the egg can happily be returned but flying the egg back to Russia might be tricky with no direct flights.

Rakewell wonders if the V&A will generously store the egg until it can be returned to Russia. This raises the exciting prospect that the museum is happily becoming even more entwined with state operations and performing a marvellous impersonation of how museums performed on the other side of the iron curtain during the Cold War – surely a very useful thing to be exhibiting right now.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.

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