China has suffered a cultural backlash for its refusal to join in condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A local administration in France has scrapped a loan of artworks by Henri Matisse for a major exhibition this month. On Thursday its organiser officially suspended the exhibition of Matisse paintings, drawings and lithographs that was to have opened on March 26 in Beijing, before moving to Shanghai. The organiser, the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, said it was “actively working with partners in France in hopes of rescheduling the exhibition”. The show, “Matisse by Matisse”, had been billed as the largest solo exhibition in China of works by the French painter, one of the masters of modern art. The Matisse Museum in Le Cateau-Cambresis, northern France – which the artist established in his birthplace two years before his death in 1954 – had agreed to loan UCCA 280 works for the exhibition. However, on Friday the administration of the Nord department which owns the museum, announced the loan of the Matisse paintings and other works had been suspended. The reason for the suspension, it said, was the geopolitical crisis initiated by Russia’s declaration of war on Ukraine . Moscow characterises its action as a “special military operation” to defend parts of the country’s east occupied by pro-Kremlin rebels. President Vladimir Putin has demanded Ukraine agree never to seek membership of Nato , the European security alliance. The Nord administration also said it was suspending all collaboration with Chinese museums until further notice because of China’s ties with Russia. On February 4, Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping met in Beijing and agreed to a no-limits strategic partnership between their two countries. A statement released after the meeting showed China explicitly backs Russia to “oppose further enlargement of Nato”. On Wednesday China abstained in a United Nations General Assembly vote to denounce Russia over Ukraine and refuses to label its military action an invasion. UCCA remains deeply committed to global cultural exchange From a statement by the Henri Matisse exhibition organisers In contrast France and fellow members of Nato and the European Union have condemned Russia over its aggression towards Ukraine. UCCA said it became aware of an announcement in France last week that the loan of the Matisse works had been called off but had yet to receive official notification of the French department’s decision. “UCCA remains deeply committed to global cultural exchange,” it said on Thursday. On Tuesday, the nationalist Global Times newspaper backed by China’s Communist Party published a column objecting to the French suspension of the Matisse loan under the headline “Art exchanges should not be affected by politics”. As Putin’s forces intensify their attack on Ukraine and the toll of civilians killed mounts, an economic, sporting and cultural backlash against Russia has grown. The Cannes Film Festival in France and other major film festivals have banned Russian productions. Major Hollywood studios have stopped distributing films in Russia. IPC caves to pressure, kicks Russians, Belarusians out of Winter Paralympics The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in Germany fired its chief conductor, Russian Valery Gergiev, a close friend of Putin, for his refusal to publicly condemn the invasion of Ukraine. In Britain, the Royal Opera House cancelled upcoming performances by Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet. Meanwhile, the curator and artists behind Russia’s national pavilion at the Venice Biennale art show resigned in protest at the war in Ukraine.