Louvre blocks sales of record-breaking Chardin strawberries



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The sale of a still life by Jean Siméon Chardin to a New York dealer for a record amount of 24.3 million euros has been postponed because the Louvre now wants to buy it.

Louvre director Laurence des Cars told… Le Figaro that she has asked Basket with wild strawberries should be classified as “a national treasure”, and seeks sponsorship to purchase it. Under French law, which is much stricter than British law in this area, this means that the work can be held for two and a half years.

The painting was sold last week at the Paris auction house Artcurial to dealer Adam Williams bidding in the room — possibly, according to a source, for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Artcurial says it asked for an export certificate just ten days before the sale, too early for the auction to get one. While this was not communicated before the sale, the auction house says everyone should know that masterpieces in France can be subject to such a procedure (known as pre-exemption) and that the information is stated in the terms of sale.

Williams did not respond to the art newspaper request for comment, but a statement from the auction house states that he and his client “have no problem waiting for the outcome because they are aware of the importance of the work”.

An advisory committee will meet in mid-April. It almost never turns down a request from the Louvre. But some experts and curators have expressed concern about purchasing such an expensive work when the museum’s budget has collapsed, especially considering it already has 41 Chardins in its collection.

The Louvre is also about to purchase a rediscovered panel by Cimabue, Mocking Christ† In 2019, it was sold to Alvaro Saieh, the Chilean billionaire owner of the New York-based Alana collection, at Actéon auctions for €19.5 million – a world record for a painting from before 1500 – before being preoccupied as a national treasure. , as with the Chardin. At the same time, the Musée d’Orsay plans to purchase a landscape by Gustave Caillebotte for 42 million euros.

Chardin’s strawberries set an auction record for an 18th-century French painting, and the Louvre has no money to pay for it. The museum spends 20% of its ticketing on purchases, normally between €5 million and €8 million per year. But visitor numbers have fallen by 70% in the last two years and with the rise of young European visitors, about half enter for free.

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