Matisse Museum Cancels Loans to Beijing’s UCCA, Citing China’s Ties to Russia Amid Invasion of Ukraine

The Matisse Museum in northern France, has canceled its loan of 280 works to the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing for an exhibition on the French artist that was due to open there later this month, before traveling to the UCCA’s other space in Shanghai. With the cancelation of the loan, the Matisse show is on hold until further notice. The news, which comes in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began last month, was first reported by the South China Morning Post.

The Matisse Museum is located in Le Cateau-Cambresis, the city where the artist was born, and was established by Matisse in 1952, two years before his death. The museum is administered by France’s Nord department government, which announced the suspension of the loans from the museum, citing “the geopolitical crisis initiated by Russia’s declaration of war on Ukraine” and how they relate to “China’s ties with Russia,” according to SCMP. The Nord government also said it will suspend all collaboration with Chinese art institutions until further notice.

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The exhibition, titled “Matisse by Matisse,” was set to open on March 26 and was being billed as the largest solo show of work by Matisse ever to be staged in China. In a statement to SCMP, the UCCA said that it was “actively working with partners in France in hopes of rescheduling the exhibition,” adding that the “UCCA remains deeply committed to global cultural exchange.”

So far, China has yet to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On March 2, China was among 35 countries that abstained from the United Nations’s General Assembly vote to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; 141 member states were in favor, while 5 were opposed.

On March 2, the New York Times reported that, according to a Western intelligence report, senior Chinese officials had asked senior Russian officials to delay its invasion of Ukraine until after the end of the 2022 Winter Olympics, which were held in Beijing this year. The report indicated that Chinese officials had prior knowledge of Russia’s plans to invade.

Though President Vladimir Putin of Russia met with President Xi Jinping of China on February 4, the day of the Olympics’ opening ceremony, it is unclear if the two discussed Ukraine. The Winter Olympics held its closing ceremony on February 20; Putin order Russian troops to begin their invasion of Ukraine on February 21. In an email to the Times, Liu Pengyu, the Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, said, “These claims are speculation without any basis, and are intended to blame-shift and smear China.”


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