Controversial Miró collection finds a home in Oporto

miroThe fate of Portugal’s collection of Joan Miró paintings finally has been decided by the Prime Minister António Costa - the collection will be on permanent display at the Serralves museum in Oporto.

The collection became famous for the on-off auction plans in 2014 which saw Philip’s in London finally deciding a sale was too risky as the Portuguese State seemed unable to confirm that it had clear title to the 85 works.

The paintings had been the property of a bank which had paid €83 million for the collection before the markets crashed in 2008.

When Banco Português de Negócios went bust and the government took control of its assets, such as they were, the collection was sxheduled to be sent to London for auction with an estimate of just €35 million.

The decision to keep the paintings for the nation ends a tense two-years with the planned February 2014 sale triggering public protests and legal injunctions leading to the works being removed from the auction house catalogue just hours before bidding was due to start.

The sale of the paintings at Christie’s then was scheduled for June 2014, but that April a court blocked the export of the works ‘in defence of cultural heritage.’

This ban was over-ruled by another judge in August 2014 but the paintings stayed in the vault until sent to the Serralves museum which opens an exhibition ‘Joan Miró, Materiality and Metamorphosis’ which will run from Saturday October 1st until January 28, 2017.

The government has not made it clear whether the collection will remain under State custody or whether paintings can be sold off to private collectors, who, according to one government official, would have to accept keeping them on display in Oporto.

What of the collection?

This is one of the most extensive and impressive collections of works by the artist. An important figure in 20th-century art, Miró was highly influential for a huge number of artists, from Picasso to Pollock.

Most often associated with Surrealism, Miró’s work has an appeal that transcends traditional categories, with today’s market seeing collectors of both Impressionist & Modern Art and Post-War & Contemporary Art compete for his paintings, works on paper and sculptures.

Highlighting Miró’s incredible ability to innovate, the works feature a wide range of materials and techniques as well as his key themes and subjects, from poetry and dreams to music and stars, women and birds. He was an artist who allowed himself to be influenced by a range of things, from music, poetry and then hallucinations induced by hunger during his early years in Paris, to patterns made by chance, to the materials themselves.

The original bedroom farce, acted out under the Passos Coelho government, triggered questions that have never been answered, including:

  • In the light of a reserve price of €32 million, why was a cash bid of €50 million from Angolan millionaire Rui Costa Reis, rejected?
  • Why was the contract between Parapublica and Christie's not sent to the Court of Auditors?
  • Why was there an attempt in parliament to keep the sale contract away from the scrutiny of MPs?
  • What was the deal with Christie's and why was it shrouded in suspicion that if the auction fails, the auction house can 'acquire' the collection for €32 million and sell it on?
  • Why are those in charge of this process who have acted illegally still drawing a taxpayer-funded salary?

Thankfully, the shameful mishandling of the sale process led to the paintings being ‘kept on hold’ until the PM’s announcement this week.

For once the nation can be grateful that the ineptitude and incompetence of those employed at the taxpayers’ expense has led to an important collection remaining in the country where it will attract art lovers from all over the world.

For exhibition details, see: 'Materiality and Metamorphosis'

See also:

2. Miró works to be exhibited - "the collection should stay in Portugal"

... the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona, ​​and the Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation in Palma de Mallorca, this collection forms a cultural triangle in the Iberian Peninsula, its value is priceless. Keeping  ...
Created on 27 July 2016
3. BPN case summing up - former bank President faces 16 years in jail
...  art collection, including 85 works by the Catalan artist Joan Miró acquired from a private collection in Japan between 2003 and 2006, became state property in 2008 as part of the nationalisation. A ...
Created on 01 June 2016
4. New government wants Miró collection to stay in Portugal
Less than a week after taking office, the new Minister of Culture, João Soares, has the Miró dossier on his desk. Time is on his side as later this month, 41 of the 85 works by Catalan artist Joan Miró ...
Created on 01 December 2015
5. Miró auction again postponed as farce continues
... le the sale of the collection of 85 works of art by Joan Miró once the legal and commercial issues surrounding the collection are resolved," writes Parvalorem in a statement that naturally fails to hint ...
Created on 23 May 2014
6. State companies fined for Miró fiasco
...  collection of 85 works by the Catalan artist Joan Miró  originally was scheduled for February but was canceled by the auction house Christie’s which did not consider the sale legally secure afte ...
Created on 09 May 2014
7. Miró auction deal surrounded by suspicion
Details of the contract between state controlled Parvalorem and Christie's covering the forthcoming auction in London of 85 Miró works have not been disclosed "because the auction house does not want any ...
Created on 16 April 2014
8. On/Off Miró auction back on
...    Christie's said on Thursday that the sale of 85 works by Spanish artist Joan Miró will be rescheduled for June but declined to give more details on the date, or the decision to finally sell t ...
Created on 20 February 2014
9. Miró sale ditched by Christie’s
...  limited companies wholly publicly owned, namely the Parvalorem, SA Parups and not the state.” The 85 works of art by the Spanish painter Joan Miró have been held by the Portuguese State since the emergenc ...
Created on 04 February 2014
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