Portugal Attempts Auction of the Art of Miro to Pay the Bills
Portugal, a country burdened with financial issues, has found a creative way to relieve their tax payers. After reviving a failed bank, the country is attempted to pay off some of the debt by offering a collection of surrealist art for auction. While the works of Joan Miro were expected to pay off only a small portion of the debt, the auction stirred up some discussion.
Three years ago, the Lisbon trial investigated fifteen people suspected to be at fault for Banco Portugues de Negocios’s failure, and rumors of corruption and mismanagement circulated. The bank became nationalized in 2008 to prevent it from a complete collapse and has left tax-payers with a 3.4 billion euro debt. After needing to be saved from bankruptcy itself in 2011, Portugal has seen a more restrictive budget and preserving the 85 piece Miro collection is not a priority.
Christie’s, who was to be running the auction, appraised the collection to have a value sitting about 36 million euros, and many of the surrealist’s most famous works, like his painting “Women and Birds” from 1968, were expected to bring in millions individually.
Although this solution was aimed to help the common people, the Miro auction caused some appropriate controversy. Some citizens desire the remarkable collection of the Spanish artist to be exhibited instead. The most organized opposition remains in the Socialist Party, who requested an injunction to halt the sale. These voices were not ignored, and just hours before the actual two-day auction was intended to begin, a drastic action was taken.
After an online petition of 9,200 signatures, the auction was cancelled. The debate now lies in whether or not Portugal, the legal owners, can sell these paintings abroad. Issues concerning the proper classification of the artwork and paperwork are among factors that raised this question.
Art has always had a questionable place in society, and unlike other facets of the modern world, its presence isn’t guaranteed by necessity. For example, whenever a school is faced with a budget crunch it’s the fine art related programs that are prone to be eliminated. There’s always the argument that art can’t feed you or promise you employment, but this story almost says the contrary.
While art should be appreciated simply for what it is, it’s also interesting to consider how it interacts with life in other ways. Art is providing an income for an entire country, and no, it may not eradicate the problem, but it will certainly make a difference. Ideally, countries wouldn’t have to resort to solutions like this, but a change of hands won’t kill the art. It’s impossible to truly contain a piece artistic expression, as it always manages to be seen or experienced somehow.
It’s as if Portugal is having a thrift sale. The country may love these paintings, but when the time comes, you have to pay the bills. Even when the regret may surface and you watch your treasured belongings be carried off, there is still a comfort. A comfort that now maybe someone else will love it just as much as you.