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Art – Blyth Festival Art Gallery reopens –



Blyth Festival Art Gallery reopens

“Just East of Auburn” is one of the works being shown and offered for sale in the Blyth Festival Art Gallery’s Season-long Community Showcase. The 16” x 20” oil painting is by Goderich artist William Creighton.


After a two year hiatus, art will once again hang on the walls of the Bainton Gallery at Blyth Memorial Hall.

The art at the Blyth Festival Art Gallery is to complement the four plays presented by the Theatre Festival on its outdoor Harvest Stage.

The summer’s Community Art Show will run from June 1 to September 24.

President of the Gallery Committee, Carl Stevenson, says art needs to be felt to be experienced, to be emotionally connected to the viewer.

Area artists interested in participating in the non-juried exhibition can get more information by accessing the Gallery’s Facebook page, or email

All of the art showcased will be available for purchase.

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Leak reveals majority interest in Roman Abramovich’s nearly $1 billion art collection was transferred to his ex-wife …



An offshore trust controlling Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich’s vast art collection was amended to make his ex-wife, art collector Dasha Zhukova, its majority beneficiary weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a new investigation by The Guardian found.

Over nearly a decade, Abramovich and Zhukova, who separated in 2016 and divorced in 2017, acquired what experts told The Guardian could be one of the world’s most significant collections of modern art — more than 350 pieces, including by Russian, European and American masters, valued at almost $1 billion in 2018.

The collection includes works by Monet, Degas, Matisse, Picasso and Magritte; Russian modernists; and British contemporary artists such as Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and David Hockney. All are owned by Seline-Invest, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and later redomiciled to Jersey. It’s controlled by Ermis Trust Settlement, a trust set up in Cyprus in 2010 for the sole benefit of Abramovich, according to The Guardian.

Details of the collection and its secretive ownership structure were revealed in a trove of leaked documents from the Cyprus-based financial services firm MeritServus, which was sanctioned by the U.K. government in April after its close ties to Abramovich and other Russian oligarchs were widely reported, including by ICIJ.

Two men hang a portrait of a sleeping naked woman — Lucian Freud's "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping"
Roman Abramovich purchased Lucian Freud’s painting “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” in 2008 for $33.6 million — the most ever spent on a work by a living artist. Image: Cate Gillon/Getty Images

The new investigation by The Guardian and a number of international media partners found that, in January 2021, Zhukova was made an “additional” beneficiary of Seline-Invest by its trustees and protectors — a mix of Abramovich’s employees and MeritServus directors. The former couple then each held a 50% beneficial interest in the trust, with their children becoming beneficiaries upon Abramovich’s death, the files showed.

But on Feb. 4, 2022, as the West threatened sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s allies, the trustees reportedly made another change: Zhukova became “irrevocably entitled to 51%” of the trust’s distributions via “a deed of amendment.” Another deed filed later that month barred Abramovich from increasing his stake. The amendments did not require Zhukova’s knowledge or consent and she had no authority to make decisions for the trust, according to The Guardian.

By early March, just days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Abramovich was hit with sanctions from the United Kingdom, leading to his assets being frozen and later forcing him to sell the Chelsea Football Club. The European Union also sanctioned the oil and gas tycoon soon after the war began.

Under EU, U.K. and U.S. rules, any asset more than 50% owned by a sanctioned individual can be frozen, which experts told The Guardian may explain the shake-up of the trust arrangements.

“The 50% rule works slightly differently in different jurisdictions,” said Tom Keatinge, the director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank.

“But under any version of the rules, it would have been attractive to reduce the interest of a trust beneficiary who was likely to be sanctioned,” Keatinge said.

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Unlike the EU and U.K., the U.S. did not place sanctions on Abramovich after an intervention from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who reportedly advised the White House that the oligarch may be a useful go-between with the Kremlin in peace negotiations. Zhukova, who is a U.S. citizen, is not subject to sanctions in any jurisdiction and has publicly condemned the war. There is no suggestion that Zhukova, who is an advocate for the arts, has taken steps to undermine sanctions via the trust or other means.

“As someone born in Russia, I unequivocally condemn these acts of war, and I stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people as well as with the millions of Russians who feel the same way,” she said.

Abramovich declined The Guardian’s request for comment and Zhukova declined to comment on the record.

Abramovich has long downplayed his relationship with Putin — and emphatically disputed any financial ties to the president.

Earlier this year, though, an ICIJ investigation, which was also based on leaked MeritServus documents obtained by Distributed Denial of Secrets and shared with news organizations, identified Abramovich at the center of a financial transaction of clear personal significance to the Russian leader.

In 2005, Israeli media reported that Putin had bought an apartment in Tel Aviv for his former high school teacher. But ICIJ found that the source of the funds, according to financial records, was actually N.P. Gemini Holdings Ltd., a Cyprus-based shell company controlled by Abramovich.

Vladimir Putin and Arkady Rotenberg

A spokesperson for Abramovich, who holds Israeli citizenship, acknowledged that a gift of $245,000 had been made to the teacher but said it was not at Putin’s behest. Instead, the spokesperson cited Abramovich’s commitment to Jewish causes and said the donation followed “a request received from the Jewish community.”

After rising to the top of Russia’s oil sector in the mid-1990s, Abramovich received a windfall in 2005 when Putin’s government paid $13 billion to reacquire Sibneft, a large oil company Abramovich and a partner bought a decade earlier for around $200 million.

He has since pursued a luxurious life outside Russia, investing heavily in U.S. hedge funds, as well as buying one of the world’s most expensive yachts, and properties in England, France and Colorado. In 2008, Abramovich married Zhukova, who is the daughter of a Moscow oil trader but was raised in the U.S.

That same year the former couple founded the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture in the Russian capital. American artist Jeff Koons was a guest of honor at the museum’s launch party and British singer Amy Winehouse performed a private concert.

Amy Winehouse singing into a microphone, surrounded by musicians on a stage
Singer Amy Winehouse performs at the opening of the Center for Contemporary Culture in Melnikov Garage in Moscow, Russia, in 2008. Image: Epsilon/Getty Images

Throughout their marriage, Abramovich and Zhukova had a reputation for spending lavishly on art and were well-known forces in elite art circles — Zhukova is currently a trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even still, the striking scale of their collection was previously unknown.

The Guardian’s investigation and the MeritServus documents offer an unprecedented window into how the collection was amassed, and also shed further light on the discrete art world’s symbiotic relationship with the offshore financial system.

The files show that in 2011 a renowned art expert was hired by Harmony Trust, another of Abramovich’s Cyprus-based trusts, on an annual retainer of $500,000 to provide “recommendations for the purchase and sale of art.” The relationship lasted six years, The Guardian reported.

With the expert’s input, the couple reportedly acquired at least 10 pieces worth more than $25 million each. But they regularly spent much more, The Guardian found, including splashing $100 million on art in a single weekend in 2008.

The consequence of Mr. Abramovich’s investment in art is that the public are deprived of the opportunity to enjoy some of the greatest modern and contemporary works.— Georgina Adam, art expert

Now, the whereabouts of the collection — which was previously only glimpsed by the public through loans to prominent museums, including London’s Tate Modern — is unknown. While the collection is not subject to an asset freezing order, The Guardian reported that sanctions against Abramovich may have blocked Ermis Trust’s ability to loan works.

“It is regrettable that the trust that holds these works seems unable to lend them,” art-market expert Georgina Adam told The Guardian.

“These sanctions were imposed for good reason. Now, the consequence of Mr. Abramovich’s investment in art is that the public are deprived of the opportunity to enjoy some of the greatest modern and contemporary works.”



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Roman Abramovich’s Art Collection Has Not Been Seized Despite Sanctions: Report



Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich restructured trust that holds the $963 million art collection he amassed in 2018 with his ex-wife, Dasha Zhukova, ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, protecting it from seizures caused by sanctions, according to new reports from Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and The Guardian.

The restructuring of the trust in February 2022 meant Abramovich and Zhukova, who own 49 and 51 percent of the trust’s assests, respectively, still maintains access to artworks by some of the world’s greatest modern and contemporary artists. Abramovich was sanctioned by the United Kingdom only days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022; he has since been sanctioned by the European Union.

“You could fill a museum with it; this is a stupendous collection,” Goldsmiths, University of London curation professor Andrew Renton told The Guardian, one of the investigation’s media partners. “It’s not the vulgar collection of a nouveau riche; it shows very good taste. If you have enough money, you can buy a piece of history.”

During the couple’s nine years of marriage, Abramovich and Zhukova established reputations as serious collectors, including multiple appearances on the ARTnews Top 200 list. In addition to co-founding the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow, Zhukova is a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Shed. ARTnews editor-in-chief Sarah Douglas also profiled Zhukova in 2021.


But documents leaked from the Cyprus-based offshore corporate service provider MeritServus HC Limited, and released by the whistleblower site Distributed Denial of Secrets, have revealed details previously unknown about Abramovich and Zhukova’s private art dealings.

(MeritServus appeared to have continued to work for the Russian billionaire even after the invasion of Ukraine. The company was also sanctioned by the UK government in April after media reports were published on its work with Abramovich and other oligarchs.)

According to the OCCRP, the collection includes Pablo Picasso’s Le Jeune Toreador, and Claude Monet’s La Plage à Trouville, as well as sculptures by Henry Moore, Antony Gormley, and Alberto Giacometti.

The Guardian published a more comprehensive list of artists that includes Piet Mondrian, Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas, Amedeo Modigliani, Francis Bacon, Paula Rego and Anselm Kiefer. The collection is also strong in Russian modernists such as Natalia Goncharova and Véra Rockline.

One notable entry is Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: White on White (1918), which had hung in the Museum of Modern Art until the institution returned it to the painter’s heirs and they sold it for $17 million at a Phillips auction in 2000.

“These are prestigious works,” Art expert and consultant Claudio Metzger told OCCRP’s media partner L’Espresso. “[These] are iconic pieces, all museum pieces. I am surprised to see all these works together.”

The Guardian‘s report also explains how Abramovich and Zhukova built their enormous art collection, including the $500,000-a-year contract paid to art advisor Sandford Heller, and the use of warehouses owned by British art storage specialist called Martinspeed, which was acquired by Crozier Fine Arts in 2021.

After being hired in late 2010, Heller worked with the couple for the next six years.

The Guardian reported that with Heller’s expertise, Abramovich purchased Lucian Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995) for $33.6 million at Christie’s New York in 2008, setting a record price for a work by a living artist. The following day, he won the 1976 Francis Bacon triptych for a cool $86.3 million at Sotheby’s New York, which at the time also set a record for the most expensive work of postwar art sold at auction.

In February 2014, the painting was carefully moved from to Abramovich’s mansion at Kensington Palace Gardens in London, according to The Guardian.

Abramovich was able to retain access to both record-setting works, as well as hundreds of other pieces, after his share of the trust was reduced to less than 50 percent, a critical threshold for sanctions in the UK. Zhukova, whose share was increased to 51 percent, is a US citizen that has not been sanctioned. She has also condemned the invasion of Ukraine.

Invoices analyzed by the Guardian showed that dozens of works from Abramovich’s collection, some of them worth millions, “were imported and exported internationally, by air and truck, through Geneva, Moscow, New York and Liège.”

Earlier this year, the Ukrainian government launched a database of art owned by Russian oligarchs targeted for seizure. However, the database only included four works related to Abramovich, a tiny fraction of what was revealed through the leak of documents from MeritServus.

The report from OCCRP does note the location of the couple’s artworks is unknown. While some pieces had been loaned for exhibitions, they are often anonymous, attributed to a “private collection”. Items from the collection have also not been seen in public since the sanctions were laid against Abramovich, which the OCCRP says are “likely due to complications caused by his sanctioning”

“It is regrettable that the trust that holds these works seems unable to lend them because of sanctions,” art market expert Georgina Adam told The Guardian. “These sanctions were imposed for good reason. Now, the consequence of Mr. Abramovich’s investment in art is that the public are deprived of the opportunity to enjoy some of the greatest modern and contemporary works.”

Both Abramovich and Zhukova declined to comment to The Guardian.


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You won’t find a more beautiful art tour in Alberta



It promises to be a beautiful weekend in the Foothills.

The aptly named Most Beautiful Art Tour in Alberta takes place on Friday, Sept. 22 and Saturday, Sept. 23 when six studios and galleries will open their doors for art-lovers near and far.

Participating venues include Bluerock Gallery, the Leighton Art Centre, Firebrand Glass Studio, Kristoferson Studio, the Okotoks Art Gallery and the studio of Mady Thiel-Kopstein.

The Most Beautiful Art Tour in Alberta isn’t just about the art, but also showcasing the beauty of the region, the varied character of the Foothills and its communities.


The common adage of the journey being as important as the destination fits the tour, said Tarek Nemr, co-owner of Bluerock Gallery, as it takes visitors on a meandering and picturesque route.

For more information visit


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