German Officials Hope to Save Portigon AG’s State-Owned Art Collection from Deaccession

Portigon is being forced to sell its assets by the EU to pay back a bailout loan. Photo: Marek Gehrmann via Wikimedia Commons

Officials in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia are preparing a plan to save the 400-piece art collection of the state-owned bank Portigon AG, Rheinische Post reported.

The rebranded successor of WestLB, which folded in 2012 during the financial crisis, has been criticized over plans to deaccession its collection to repay a bailout package (see “Portigon Says Auf Wiedersehen to Its Art Collection.”)

The NRW Finance and Culture ministries are considering a three-step plan to keep the collection’s most significant pieces, including works by Pablo Picasso, August Macke, Joseph Beuys, and Günther Uecker in Germany.

The first step of the plan is to artificially reduce the market value of the collection. By imposing an export ban on the most significant works, the works will become less attractive to investors and consequently decrease in value. In addition, the market value of the collection is to be lowered to its insurance value, which, according to Finance Minister Norbert Walter-Borjans, is about €28 million.

The second step is to find private sponsors who would be prepared to purchase parts of the collection and accept to display them publicly. The chemical company Evonik, the Essen National-Bank, and the Henkel Foundation are rumored to be interested in a partnership.

If private funding doesn’t suffice, the third step would see income from the sale of two $151.5 million Warhol silkscreen prints at Christie’s in November make up the difference.

NRW Finance Minister Norbert Walter-Borjans said that the plan is “a solution to keep important artworks in the country, without burdening the state budget or the taxpayer, if possible.”


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