José “Joe” Berardo

Joe Berardo “ponders suing MPs over image rights violations”

The very public fight between the government and arts ‘VIP’ José (Joe) Berardo has taken on almost comic proportions with Berardo apparently “pondering” whether he should sue MPs over the violation of his image rights, due to TV coverage transmitted live from parliament (click here).

Say reports, “the businessman didn’t like it”.

That is probably an understatement.

As a result of the robust parliamentary grilling Berardo has been vilified in the media, seen himself described as “a vampire” and “a parasite” and is now in danger of losing his ‘presidential honours’.

An extraordinary meeting of the honours’ national council last Friday saw a disciplinary process opened, with a view to stripping the Madeiran-born art collector of two commendations.

Berardo has quipped that he “never asked for the commendations” and actually has seven more.

Losing his Portuguese honours would be “a release” he told journalists.

But the way in which his reactions and answers were beamed across the country (and are now available for anyone who missed them on Youtube) seems to have stuck in Berardo’s craw.

Says Sol, his lawyer arrived at the parliamentary committee hearing, with three stipulations: one that he, the lawyer, would read a text as Berardo is dyslexic, two that photographers should leave the room after the first five minutes, and three that the session should be recorded but not beamed on live parliamentary television.

Luís Leite Ramos, president of the parliamentary commission, agreed with the first two points but balked at the third, saying the discourse was of ‘manifest public interest’ as it dealt with the almost €1 billion that Berardo-linked associations and foundations owe three Portuguese banks.

Leite Ramos has said he is not worried about the chances now of being sued, as he believes he did what he had to do.

But focus is rounding on the exact worth of Berardo’s famous collection, which includes works by Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Piet Mondrian, Joan Miró, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Francis Bacon, Paula Rego, Yves Klein, Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Richard Serra, Gerhard Richter, Bruce Nauman, Julião Sarmento and Gabriel Orozco.

Says Sol, the bulk of the collection has been valued by Christie’s at €316 million.

Tabloid Correio da Manhã has a higher valuation, from the Gary Nader Art Centre in Miami (€571 million) for the complete collection.

Either way, it’s still roughly half a billion euros short of what everyone claims Berardo ‘owes’ – and these were valuations made almost a decade ago.

Says CM: “A decade later, no one can give the current value of the Berardo Collection.

“When he was heard by the parliamentary commission Berardo affirmed that the collection had not been subject to any evaluation as had been stipulated in the agreement for restructuring his group’s debts to (State Bank) CGD, BCP and BES (now Novo Banco)”.

The paper stressed that the “absence of a current evaluation has contributed to increasing the mystery surrounding the collection’s true value”.

The only ‘certainty’ in this current polemic is that the Portuguese State has created a task force to “guarantee the integrity and public enjoyment of the Berardo Collection” – housed in Praça do Império, Lisbon – and to ensure that it cannot be sold.

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