Russian Freeze on Art Loans to U.S. Postpones HMNS Hermitage Exhibit

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The Houston Museum of Natural Science has postponed indefinitely its exhibit Treasures of the Hermitage because of "pending legal issues involving recent court hearings in Washington D.C. over legal ownership of the Schneerson Library collection in Moscow," according to a statement from the museum.

A U.S. district court ruled in 2010 that the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Chabad-Lubavitch movement could have a claim to the holy texts and Russia, fearing its cultural property could be seized, has frozen art loans to American institutions, including HMNS and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, according to the Associated Press.

Treasures of the Hermitage was to feature a collection of gold, silver and jewels acquired by Russian rulers from Peter the Great to Nicholas II on loan from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

HMNS VP of Communications Latha Thomas said museum staff were "obviously disappointed," but optimistic that the exhibit would come to Houston eventually. "We do expect the show to open at a later date," she said. Meanwhile, the museum has added an exhibit, The Glory of Ukraine: Sacred Images from the 11th to the 19th Centuries, set to open June 5. This will complement the exhibit Ancient Ukraine: Golden Treasures & Lost Civilizations, which opens May 27.

Houston was to be the Treasures of the Hermitage's only stop in the United States, Thomas said.

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