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HomeEuropeSwiss Museum in Financial Straits Sells Three Cézannes for $53 Million

Swiss Museum in Financial Straits Sells Three Cézannes for $53 Million

Museum Langmatt said the sales were necessary to keep its doors open. Critics had said they violated industry guidelines on when a museum should sell off parts of its collection.

Three paintings by Paul Cézanne that a Swiss museum foundation said it had to sell to ward off insolvency fetched $52.5 million, with buyer’s fees, at a Christie’s auction in New York last night.

Markus Stegmann, the director of the Museum Langmatt in Baden, said that after subtracting buyer’s fees, its parent foundation will reap 42.3 million Swiss francs from the sale of the three paintings, enough to keep the museum operating. The money will be used to create an endowment that will secure the museum’s future.

“This is a decisive milestone for us,” Stegmann said. “We were entertaining all kinds of possible scenarios given a very poor market environment. It’s a relief.”

The Foundation Langmatt’s decision to sell the Cézannes earned wide criticism before the auction. The Swiss branch of the International Council of Museums, which said the sale was a clear breach of its guidelines for de-accessioning from museum collections, called for the paintings to be withdrawn.

The Foundation Langmatt had said it had hoped to only sell as many of the three paintings as required to reach its target of 40 million Swiss francs. The first up for bidding, a still life titled “Fruits et pot de gingembre” (1890-1893), sold for $38.9 million, ($33.5 million excluding buyer’s fees, which put it slightly under the $35 million low estimate for the auction.)

The painting was subject to a last-minute restitution settlement with the heirs of Jacob Goldschmidt, a Jewish art dealer in Frankfurt who sold it in 1933. The details of this agreement were not disclosed, but Stegmann said compensation for the heirs will not be paid out of Langmatt’s share of the proceeds.

A second Cézanne owned by the museum, “Quatre pommes et un couteau” (about 1885), fetched $10.4 million, and the third, “La mer à L’Estaque” (1878-1879), sold for $3.2 million, both with fees.

“Of course we are a little bit sad that we had to sell them all,” Stegmann said. “But we have reached the most important goal.”

The evening auction of 20th-century art reaped almost $640.8 million in total, Christie’s said, describing it as the highest total in a single night for a sale of works owned by more than one collector since November 2017. The top lot was Claude Monet’s “Le bassin aux nymphéas,” which sold for $74 million.

Records were set for six artists during the sale: Richard Diebenkorn, Joan Mitchell, Arshile Gorky, Barbara Hepworth, Fernando Botero and Joan Snyder.

Three works by Egon Schiele, which were sold after restitution to the heirs of Fritz Grünbaum, exceeded pre-sale estimates.

“I Love Antithesis,” a Schiele self-portrait, fetched almost $11 million. Another self-portrait, a 1910 watercolor with black crayon, sold for $2.8 million, and “Standing Woman (Dirne)” earned $2.7 million.

The heirs have said the proceeds will benefit the Grünbaum Fischer Foundation, which supports underrepresented artists.

Source: The Newyork Times

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