German Bank NRW Defends Deaccession of State-Owned Art

Last week the state-owned bank Portigon AG of North Rhine-Westphalia, the rebranded successor of WestLB which folded in 2012 during the financial crisis, announced its plans to deaccession its entire art collection (see “Portigon Says Auf Wiedershen to Its Art Collection.”)

It’s not going down well. Yesterday, Monopol reported that German Culture Minister, Monika Grütters, threatened NRW with federal intervention if the state-owned company continued to deaccession nationally significant cultural artifacts. This comes after the NRW-owned casino conglomerate, Westspiel, sold two Warhol screenprints in November for over $100 million to help finance its debt (see “Is Germany Using Warhol Sale to Pay Off State Debt?”)

In response, NRW’s Culture Minister, Ute Schäfer, called on the federal government to share responsibility for the controversial sale. As a silent partner in Portigon, the federal government would be “significantly affected by the decisions [that are] taken,” Schäfer said in Düsseldorf. “Therefore the Federal Ministry of Finance must be involved,” she continued. Schäfer insisted that the Federal Ministry of Finance must support NRW, and called on Grütters to use her “influence on the Federal level,” to come to an amicable solution.

Meanwhile, Portigon CEO Kai Wilhelm Franzmeyer, has been keen to spread the responsibility across as many parties as possible. “The country as a whole has to think about which artworks it wants to keep—and how this goal is to be reached,” he said. Franzmeyer maintained that this concerned politicians as well as “museums, foundations, corporations and individuals.” However, he stressed that any potential solution “must be legally and economically viable for us.”

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