Fearing Political Instability After the Catalonia Referendum, a Collector Withdraws Loans From MACBA

The ramifications of the secessionist challenge are stretching beyond politics and into the art world.

The French collector Philippe Méaille. Photo ©Château de Montsoreau-Museum of Contemporary Art.

The French collector Philippe Méaille announced yesterday that he was withdrawing the artworks he had loaned to the MACBA museum in Barcelona, citing concerns for his collection in light of the turmoil following the vote for Catalan independence.

A statement released yesterday by the Château de Montsoreau, the French institution which houses the Méaille collection, reads: “Due to the political instability in Catalonia and to ensure the security of the artworks deposited at MACBA Barcelona since 2010 in the form of a long-term loan, Philippe Méaille decided to repatriate his collection of contemporary art to France and not to renew its loan contract with the Catalan institution.”

According to the statement, the Philippe Méaille collection, which represents the world’s largest holdings of works by Art & Language, will be integrated into the permanent collection of the Château de Montsoreau Museum of Contemporary Art, located in the Loire Valley.

'ART & LANGUAGE Incomplet' exhibiton views, 2014. Photo EOS-AF, Estudi Orpinell & Sánchez - Artesania Fotogràfica.

“ART & LANGUAGE Incomplet” exhibition views, 2014. Photo EOS-AF, Estudi Orpinell & Sánchez – Artesania Fotogràfica.

The announcement comes after a rocky two weeks in which an illegal referendum on whether the Spanish province should become independent was called by the local government. The vote took place on October 1 amid forceful attempts by Spanish police to stop voters. Right now, all eyes are on Catalonia, where the local government might unilaterally declare an independent state, which would trigger a constitutional crisis in the country.

“This is not a political decision,” Méaille told artnet News via email. “The decision to repatriate the collection to the Château de Montsoreau-Museum of Contemporary Art has been taken because of the political instability in Catalonia, and because I feel insecure about political issues regarding the collection.”

“It is not the end of this fruitful collaboration between [the MACBA] and me,” Méaille added. “MACBA has done a wonderful job in the past seven years and their expertise in contemporary art is irreplaceable. I hope that our two institutions would be able to work together again in the future.”

The date of the repatriation hasn’t been established yet, but according to France 3, it will take place imminently. Over 500 artworks were loaned to MACBA as part of the long-term agreement in 2010. In 2014, part of the collection was displayed in a temporary exhibition, which came “after four years’ investment in the restoration, study, documentation, and cataloging of its materials,” according to the exhibition’s press release.

'ART & LANGUAGE Incomplet' exhibiton views, 2014. Photo EOS-AF, Estudi Orpinell & Sánchez - Artesania Fotogràfica.

“ART & LANGUAGE Incomplet” exhibition views, 2014. Photo EOS-AF, Estudi Orpinell & Sánchez – Artesania Fotogràfica.

artnet News contacted MACBA for comment, but had not heard back at the time of publishing.

Méaille’s holdings include the largest collection of works by Art & Language, the UK-born collective that was founded in 1967-68 by Terry Atkinson, David Bainbridge, Michael Baldwin, and Harold Hurrell. Closely associated with the Conceptual Art movement, the collective’s initial impetus was to challenge the established and mainstream art world of the time, and they did so through a wide variety of media, including texts, sculpture, installation, and painting.

Other artists who have been part of the collective include Joseph Kosuth, Ian Burn, Mel Ramsden, and Dave Rushton.

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