Pair of Polkes Saved from Liquidation
The state bank of Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW Bank) has opted against selling two Sigmar Polke works following a countrywide controversy over the deaccessioning of two works by Andy Warhol, as reported by Monopol.
The German casino conglomerate Westspiel, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of NRW Bank, announced the decision to sell the pair of works, estimated at €100 million ($128 million), in September. The works will hit the auction block today at Christie’s New York and have generated sizable controversy, even gracing the front pages of German newspapers. In a move, which some have seen as an effort by the state to avoid yet further criticism, it subsequently dropped plans to sell the pair of Polke works.
A spokesperson for NRW Bank admitted that the bank did once plan to auction the two paintings after it was initially unable to find a museum prepared to take the pictures on a long term loan. In the meantime however, the Düsseldorf Kunstsammlung NRW and the LWL-Museum Münster both expressed an interest in accepting the artworks, allowing the deaccession plans to be halted. Polke’s Hüter der Schwelle (2003) has been loaned to LWL Museum Münster. The other work, Primavera (2003) has been loaned to the Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf.
The sales are also not quite as similar as they may initially seem. Indebted casino chain Westspiel decided to sell the Warhol works without notifying state museums or consulting the region’s culture minister. The profit from the sale has been earmarked to to pay off the casino’s sizable financial obligations. A petition, which tried to stop the sale of the works called it a “controversial political issue with considerable ripple effect,” (see Outrage Erupts over Casino’s Sale of €100 million Warhol’s).
In NRW bank’s case, even if they had hit the auction block, the proceeds from their sale would have gone towards the promotion of emerging artists, making it more in line with energy conglomerate E.ON’s still-controversial but ultimately tolerated sale of a Jackson Pollock (see “$20-Million Pollock Hits Auction Block to Shore Up German Energy Giant’s Art Initiatives“). The bank changed its arts strategy in 2010 from investing in established artists to emphasizing the promotion of young artists.
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