A Ukrainian Art Dealer on France’s Trial Over Art Theft

A Ukrainian Art Dealer Went on Trial On Monday, Accused of Stealing a €1.5m Painting and Other Artworks, From Museums and Auction Houses.

Feb 2, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
A Ukrainian art dealer
The “Port de La Rochelle”, Paul Signac.

 

A Ukrainian art dealer faced accusations of stealing many worthy artworks from museums and auction houses, all over Ukraine. The law finally caught up with him, as he is on trial in France. There are also accusations of stealing “Port de La Rochelle”. This is a painting by Paul Signac, a French Impressionist. The suspicions are that he stole it in 2018, from the Fine Art Museum in Nancy.

 

A Ukrainian Art Dealer Denied All the Accusations

Ukrainian National Police head Sergey Knyazev [R] during a presentation of Paul Signac’s Port de la Rochelle (1915). Photo: Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images.

In 2018, Paul Signac‘s painting disappeared under suspicious conditions. After that, the museum conducted a private investigation and figured out three men used a box cutter to remove the paintwork. Also, wrapped the canvas up and slipped it beneath a coat as they left the area. But, here we have a happy ending, and it is all connected with a suspect for murder.

 

Museum of Fine Arts in Nancy

 

The police in Kyiv came across the painting one year later, when they searched a murder suspect’s residence. He admitted the “Port de La Rochelle” was concealed in a cabinet. This man also revealed the name of another man who participated in this art theft. His name is Vadym Huzhva and is an art dealer. The artwork’s estimated worth is €1.5 million ($1.6 million).

 

After the police tracked down Huzhva, they deported him to France after his release in 2020. Huzhva stated he did not commit any art theft and said somebody framed him. Everything happened in court on Monday. “”I don’t see how I have anything to do with this.You have no proof of your allegations,” he told the court.

 

“He is not on the surveillance film” – Huzhva’s Lawyer

The ‘Port de La Rochelle, $1.6 million. ©AFP

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Huzhva’s lawyer Samira Boudiba said all of the allegations are wrong because he is not on the surveillance film. She also said the film only shows three people who can’t be identified, and said all of this a conspiracy against her client. But, prosecutors said he is a gang member that stole many paintings.

 

Huzhva is the only one on trial in France, because all other members are already in prison, in Ukraine. “That theft was truly traumatic,” Nancy museum director Richard Dagorne said. François Pérain, the Nancy public prosecutor said these men stole the painting in a very simple way. That’s the thing that surprised everyone.

 

Museum of Fine Arts in Nancy

 

But, the stealing of Paul Signac‘s painting is not the only theft he is accused of. This includes the 2017 theft of a Renoir painting, from a French auction house in the Paris region. Also, the robbery of a picture from Béziers and two objects of art from a Versailles auction house.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.