Culture minister battles to save art for Portugal

The fate of disgraced BPN bank’s impressive Miró collection – almost sold-off in what would have been the equivalent of a bargain-basement sale at Christie’s in 2014 – appears much more assured now that culture minister João Soares claims his mission is to keep it in Portugal “forever”.

The son of former president Mário Soares – and one-time mayor of Lisbon – was considered an odd-choice for culture when the new PS government took office last November, but since then he has been gunning for threatened art works, including those of legendary national treasure Maria Helena Vieira da Silva.

Soares has told reporters that his determination to find solutions accepts that there could be “repercussions of a heritage and financial nature” , writes Observador, without giving further details.

Talking in parliament on the 2016 budget, he said: “The Miró collection was sent out of the country in conditions of absolute illegality” when it should remain the property of the State (click here).

As for the works of Vieira da Silva, these too are “at risk of being sold” by the heirs of the Jorge de Brito Foundation, explains Económico.

The State has been in negotiations since December, to find a way of securing the paintings and preventing them leaving national soil.

For now, they can be seen in only one place: the Arpad Szénes-Vieira da Silva museum, in Lisbon.

Up until 2015, Vieira da Silva (who died in 1992) held the record for being Portugal’s top selling artist.

Her painting entitled Saint-Fargeau was told in Paris in 2011 for €1.5 million.

Since then, Paula Rego has beaten Vieira da Brito to the top slot, seeing one of her paintings sold at auction in London last July for €1.6 million.

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