updated 3/21/2011 3:17:36 PM ET 2011-03-21T19:17:36

NEW YORK, March 21, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Over the last 10 years, the market for Russian art has grown by a factor of 30 and now accounts for $400 million in sales a year, and the role of Russians on the international art market is ever more noticeable. In turn, art scandals involving Russians are also increasing in number. Russia! magazine has published a Top 10 rating of the biggest scandals on the Russian art market at the beginning of the 21st century.

The scandals include fraud and theft, the ownership of wartime spoils, conflicts between the church and society, battles among oligarchs, multi-million dollar corruption and, as always when it comes to Russia, a giant penis painted on a bridge opposite an FSB building.

According to experts, the biggest scandal to date is the "Rubens affair," when a Rubens painting stolen during the war, "Tarquin and Lucretia," was obtained by a little-known businessman, Vladimir Logvinenko. A criminal case was brought against Logvinenko in Germany, and the return of the masterpiece became the subject of political negotiations. Allegedly, Logvinenko later cooked up a complicated financial scheme, apparently in a bid to sell the painting for 60 million euros, and convinced a key Russian businessman to transfer money to a special fund. The money mysteriously vanished. The case against Logvinenko is currently being heard in court, while the Rubens painting is displayed at the Hermitage, where it is immensely popular thanks to the scandal that engulfed it.

Second place goes to an imbroglio involving Viktor Vekselberg, a key Russian collector, and the Christie's auction house. Vekselberg's foundation bought a work by the famous Russian painter Boris Kustodiev for $2.9 million, but the expert found it to be a fake. The court case is ongoing.

Other major scandals include a case against the curators of the "Forbidden Art" exhibition – they are charged with inciting ethnic hatred, but the curators' supporters accuse the government of censorship – as well as a lawsuit against activists from the Voina group, who painted a giant phallus on a bridge opposite an FSB building in St. Petersburg. The government wasn't too impressed, but the work caught the eye of British graffiti artist Banksy, who donated around $150,000 to support Voina.

The total value of the artworks in the Top 10 is $100 million. To learn more, please visit www.readrussia.com .

RUSSIA!, a quarterly, independent English-language glossy published by Press Release Group, defines itself as devoted to "most original coverage of people, trends, ideas and events" taking place in or around Russia.

CONTACT: Anastasia Thompson
         a.thompson@readrussia.com
         www.readrussia.com

© Copyright 2012, GlobeNewswire, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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