Portugal Blocks Export of 85 Miró Paintings Ahead of Christie’s Sale

A Portuguese judge has blocked the export of 85 paintings by Joan Miró ahead of their sale at Christie’s London, scheduled for June. According to Brazilian publication Divirtase, the Lisbon court ruled on Thursday in favor of a petition by the public prosecutor, requesting that the works be banned from leaving Portugal, “in defense of cultural heritage.”

The paintings are estimated to be worth north of €36.4  million ($50.6 million). They were originally scheduled to be sold in Christie’s February sale. However, following massive public outcry and protests, they were pulled from that sale just hours before it was slated to begin. In late March, it was announced that the works would go up for auction after all.

The 85 Miró pictures were originally part of the Banco Português de Negócios collection. The bank folded in 2008 with the government then assuming ownership of the collection. Now, nearly $110 billion in debt, the state has sold off about $11 billion in assets. Whether objects of cultural heritage can be among that hoard has sparked fierce debate in the country.

Earlier this month, Angolan businessman Rui Costa Reis approached the Portuguese government with an offer to purchase the works for €44 million ($61.2 million), well above their estimated worth. If that sale were allowed to continue, he has said that they would be placed on display in Porto, Portugal for at least the next 50 years.

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