GES-2 was meant to be Moscow’s answer to Tate Modern, but the invasion of Ukraine has cast a pall over the project

On a recent Saturday in April, Muscovites strolled around GES-2, a vast new arts centre built in a disused power station steps away from the Kremlin. But guests visiting the 54,400-sq-metre centre, designed by the pioneering Italian architect Renzo Piano, were faced with one hard-to-miss problem: the art was absent, The Guardian reported.

“It is not the time for contemporary art when people are dying and blood is spilling. We can’t pretend as if life is normal,” said Evgeny Antufiev, a Russian artist who asked for his works to be removed from GES-2 shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

At the end of last year Vladimir Putin toured the GES-2 museum alongside Leonid Mikhelson, one of the country’s richest businessmen, who financed the multimillion-dollar construction of the centre.

Cameras followed Putin as he watched over the work of the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson – who inaugurated the much-anticipated GES-2 with Santa Barbara – A Living Sculpture, a theatrical piece that examined the relationship between Russia and the US.

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