You’ve heard of the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the War on Terror, Star Wars and the war on obesity…but have you ever heard of the Museum Wars? That’s right. Since January this year the United States of America and Russia have decided to go at it again – this time over who will exhibit what, and whether or not museums from both countries will lend their oil paintings. Never far from controversy, several Paul Gauguin paintings have also been involved. So just what is all this kerfuffle about?

The issue at the heart of the matter follows two judicial rulings in the American Federal courts since 2010. The courts ruled a group of works known as the Schneerson Library, a collection of Jewish religious books and artwork totalling about 62,000 documents in total. The library was collated by the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement over 200 years before World War II, and Russia has kept the library since the Nazis looted the works and moved them to Poland, where they were seized by the Russians after the war. For decades the Chabad organization has been trying to gain legal and physical possession, unsuccessfully suing in Russia but finally gaining success in the United States.

The Federal Court ruling in favour of the Chabad organization resulted in an almost immediate response from Russian government and museum officials. They refused to loan out any works on the basis that they may be seized in the United States and held as an oil painting hostage. Unfortunately for Gauguin oil painting lovers, this occurred just before a Gauguin exhibition at the Met, in New York. Several Gauguin oil paintings from his Tahitian period were also not lent to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, despite assurances from the U.S. government that loaned artworks would not be seized (the seven Gauguin oil paintings are rated as among his best and are housed at the Hermitage Museum and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts).

Despite all this fanfare, museum officials are working hard to play down the anxieties. Russian museum officials, who are often direct employees of the government, as opposed to employees of the museum as a separate entity, have laid the blame at America’s feet. Russian officials said an American court had no jurisdiction in Russia, and that the decision was actually a violation of Russian sovereignty and international law. One way of viewing it would be to reverse the situation: would an American museum recognise a ruling by a Russian court, especially if the topic was particularly controversial? The answer will probably result in several more years of negotiation before the pubic – the biggest losers in the this debate – will be able to access these treasured resources again.

Don’t let diplomatic intrigues, international law nuances, or wholesale theft on a nationwide scale by a fascist regime inhibit your love for Gauguin paintings. We have museum quality oil reproductions of the French master’s most primal and beastly work. Just browse away and we guarantee you’ll find something worth looking over again – and perhaps launching a lawsuit across the Atlantic Ocean.