Kill Mua by Paul Gauguin will return in the next few days to the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum with the approval of the Council of Ministers of the pact signed in January between Carmen Cervera and former Minister José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes. The head of the Thyssen Foundation that manages the public museum will benefit from a rental contract of 130 million euros, by order of the Pedro Sánchez Government, at a rate of 6.5 million per year for 20 years. It is an unprecedented operation in Spanish cultural policies, both in terms of the quantity and the nature of the agreement. With Kill Mua Housed in the vault of a bank in Andorra, the owner of the post-impressionist painting valued at just over 40 million euros has managed to close an agreement that she has pursued since the 16 rooms were inaugurated in 2004 to exhibit her private collection.
The contract for this unprecedented operation remains unfinished six months after the agreement was announced, but there is also no justification for the disbursement of such an amount. A week ago this newspaper asked the then Secretary General of Culture, Javier García Fernández, if there was a technical report by experts in which the 130 million euros that will be paid for the rental of this private collection were justified. His answer was clear: “It does not exist and it will not be done because it is not necessary.” In addition, García Fernández added that the existing valuation of the collection is mentioned in the State Guarantee –the amount with which the collection of 425 paintings was last insured–, which amounts to 330 million euros, excluding Kill Mua by Gauguin. Cervera assures that it is worth at least 1,300 million euros.
The State will rent a collection without having valued it. No committee of experts has analyzed the need to include this collection in the collections that are already exhibited in public museums. “When the State pays for a collection, the operation is always accompanied by a technical report from experts who inform about the need for payment. In this case, the vast majority of the collection is Spanish manners from the 19th century and this part is very well represented. in the Prado Museum, in the National Museum of Art of Catalonia and in the Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao “, indicates the professor in History of Art and curator of exhibitions Isabel Tejeda. He adds that Cervera’s collection “is not an excellent collection”, because it does not have a “line of force.” It has no sense of collection.
The usual criticism of this collection, which in its original assignment had 655 works and which the owner has been depleting to distribute to other museums such as the one that bears his name in Malaga, is that it lacks unity and a common thread. The best paintings are islands, isolated episodes. In fact, the experts consulted by this newspaper agree that the only interesting thing about the set is the international collection that it inherits. Maximum one hundred works. “It is the capital that she has as it was in her day Favorite Villa”, indicates one of the sources who knows the collection perfectly and prefers to remain anonymous, referring to the mansion in Lugano (Switzerland) where the couple lived and that Cervera sold for about 65 million euros (20 less than it intended).
The most outstanding nucleus of the Cervera collection is a split from the Thyssen collection, which was disbanded in 1993, when the baron inherited 125 paintings (in addition to furniture, tapestries, rugs and sculptures) to his wife. The most notable part of Cervera’s collections is made up of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, with two gauguin exceptional, Comings and goings, Martinique (1897), and the noted Kill Mua. As this newspaper reported, it has sold Charing Cross by Monet – which is already on display at the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi – and in 2012 The lock, by John Constable, for 27.9 million euros. Cervera now wants her paintings (427) to be mixed with those of her late husband (775), Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, which the State acquired in 1993 for 350 million dollars (288 million euros).
The amount that the Government intends to pay for the annual rent of these works of art is similar to that which the State invests in the Thyssen Bornemisza National Museum, which in 2021 is 7.99 million euros (in 2020 it remained in 5.6 million euros). Perhaps the most striking thing is the investment that is destined to the state museums, whose shortage is endemic and denounced by the unions for years in the absence of a budget increase.
As revealed in the General State Budgets for 2021, the 16 state-owned museums remain with 1.1 million euros. Of this amount, for example, 96,000 euros are for the security plan of the centers and 77,000 euros for miscellaneous supplies. On the other hand, the Prado Museum has budgeted 500,000 euros in acquisition of works of art for 2021, which in the case of the Reina Sofía Museum is 1.2 million euros.
The professor of Art History José Manuel Cruz Valdovinos considers the operation “a scandal.” “It is crazy, it has neither head nor tail. And in the Congress of Deputies no one has been heard against this. It is a political decision, without justification and unjustifiable,” Valdovinos explains about the striking silence of the opposition in a very controversial agreement. Jaime Brihuega, former General Director of Fine Arts, wonders who has set this price if an objective assessment has not been made by a person of scientific relevance and outside the particular interest.