Museum of Confiscated Art – Brest, Belarus - Atlas Obscura
Unusual adventures and hidden discoveries. Explore our 2018 trips now »

Brest, Belarus

Museum of Confiscated Art

A small museum in this border city displays the contraband art that has been stolen back from smugglers. 

Sitting on the border of the tumultuous Soviet Union, the city of Brest, Belarus became a prime destination for art thieves looking to secrete their goods across international lines, but thanks to a committed customs service, much of these artifacts are taken back by the authorities before they can ever be fenced.

When the owners of these confiscated artifacts cannot be found, rather than hiding them away or destroying them, the items are put on display in the city’s small but wildly diverse Museum of Rescued Art Treasures.

The collection contains over 300 pieces that have been collected, mainly during the 1990s when smugglers were trying to take advantage of the political upheaval in Russia. Items on display range from ancient artifacts from the 16th century to contemporary works of art. Historic bibles, religious triptychs, Soviet sculptures, paintings, and all manner of other works are on exhibit within the confines of the home-sized museum. The largest find on display is an entire set of antique furniture that was found hidden in a shipment of milk powder.

Unfortunately, not all of the “saved” pieces came out of their ordeals unscathed. In order to transport some of the larger items they had to be chopped up into component parts, and have been reassembled as well as possible in the museum, although they will clearly never be the same. Nonetheless, it is a far nobler fate than being sold on the black market and forever lost to the world.