New East Digital Archive

Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art under threat as key backer faces money laundering probe

Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art under threat as key backer faces money laundering probe
Design for Latvia's Museum of Contemporary Art. Image: Adjaye Associates / AB3D

22 February 2018

The future of Latvia’s long-awaited Museum of Contemporary Art could be in jeopardy as one of the project’s backers teeters of the brink of bankruptcy.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Riga was due to open in 2021 with significant investment from one the country’s largest banks, ABLV.

But the project’s future was thrown into disarray this month when the US government accused ABLV of money laundering and allowing clients to break EU sanctions against North Korea. The US Treasury has since moved to block ABLV from doing financial deals in dollars, forcing the company to ask Latvia’s Central Bank for a 480 million euro loan. ABLV denies the allegations of money laundering and sanction-breaking.

Elīna Vikmane, head of the Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art Foundation, has declined to speculate on the museum’s future, telling journalists that “the development of the museum [is] going to plan.”

Others have raised concerns for the 200 modern Latvian artworks owned by the bank destined for the new museum’s collection.

If the bank collapses “it will set the development of Latvian art back for several decades,” said Solvita Krese, head of the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, according to a report by LSM.LV. “There are fragmentary works currently at the Latvian National Museum of Art or the ABLV Bank collection for the upcoming Museum of Contemporary Art. These works are disappearing right now.”

London-based architecture firm Adjaye Associates announced in June 2016 that it had been selected to design the museum with local Latvian studio AB3D. Their design draws inspiration from the traditional wooden houses of the Baltic region with a sharp, angular roofscape.

As well as gallery space, the building is also set to boast a 200-seat auditorium, educational spaces, a reading room and café.