Hallen für Neue Kunst Goes Bankrupt Trying to Keep Joseph Beuys Masterpiece

Joseph Beuys Das Kapital Raum (1971-1977) Photo: Neue Zürcher Zeitung via Keystone

The Joseph Beuys installation Das Kapital Raum (1970-1977), which was housed in the Hallen für Neue Kunst in the Swiss city of Schaffhausen, has been sold for an undisclosed price, Focus reports. Beuys created the work for the 1980 Venice Biennale, personally rebuilding the installation at the newly opened Swiss museum in 1984.

Between 2004 and 2014, the piece was at the center of a legal dispute between the Hallen für Neue Kunst and three investors. Following an argument over the future of the museum, the trio, which owned the artwork, claimed it back. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, arguing that the artwork did indeed belong to the investors’ company, Crexart AG. The piece was subsequently sold privately.

The museum was forced to close in 2014 when it lost an appeal after the Schaffhausen Supreme Court ordered it to hand over the Beuys installation.

According to Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the foundation managing the museum—which was founded with a modest CHF80,000 ($84,466) endowment—was unable to pay the CHF 180,000 ($190,000) in legal fees and the CHF221,000 ($233,300) in compensation accrued in the drawn-out lawsuit to keep hold of its primary attraction. After failing to attract potential investors, the foundation was left on the verge of bankruptcy.

The removal of the work has been widely criticized. The sale means that the small town of Schaffhausen has lost one of its most significant cultural attractions. A spokesperson for the city told Focus “We view this development with regret.”

On Friday Monopol reported that the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation announced that collector Erich Marx had permanently loaned the installation to Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie.

However, Beuys’ widow, Eva, has long made it clear that she does not condone the sale and would consider any attempt to remove the artwork from its intended location in Schaffhausen as a destruction of the work.

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