“Neither Culture nor any Spanish museums have expressed interest in the painting”


Updated:01/13/2021 00: 36h


In addition to the “Young Man Holding a Medallion”, which goes up for auction on January 28 at Sotheby’s in New York, there is another important Botticelli on the market. Specifically, in Spain. He “Portrait of Michele Marullo Tarcaniota” (h. 1491) , which hung in the Prado for more than a decade, is still in private hands. Property of the Guardans-Cambó familyand declared an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC) in 1988 (and therefore unbearable ), left our country with a temporary permit in 2019: it was put up for sale in Frieze Mastersat the Trinity Fine Art gallery booth. Gallery officials said there were several “serious offers.” Its price, 30 million dollars.

Its owners are Helena Cambó (daughter of the Catalan politician, businessman and collector Francesc Cambó, who acquired it in 1929 for 1.2 million of the old pesetas) and his children. We spoke yesterday, by phone, with Rafael Guardans-Cambó, one of them. In what situation is the painting? «We have it calmly, well cared for, and that’s it. There has been no expression of interest on the Spanish side: neither from the Ministry of Culture nor from any of the museums. Yes, by individuals, with whom we have been talking, but nothing has been specified. What happened to the offers at Frieze Masters? «Nothing was closed and, therefore, we are where we were».

More than a decade at the Prado

Why is there such a big difference between the price of the Botticelli that comes up for auction (an estimate of $ 80 million) and that of the portrait of his family (30 million)? “The gallery that brought him to Frieze Masters made it clear that the discounts required by his BIC status had to be applied.” If it were not BIC, would the prices of both portraits be similar? «The Spanish State has guaranteed this painting during the more than ten years that it was in the Prado, as can be seen in the BOE, for 60 million euros . Therefore, if the State thinks that it is not worth that, I do not know why it was guaranteed with that amount.

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As acting Minister of Culture, Jose Guiraosaid the box should go to the MNAC. Do you agree? Would you like me more to go to Prado? Whoever wants to pay. The important thing is that here there is a private property and a market. I don’t understand José Guirao’s comment ». Is the price still 30 million? «The market is the boss. We can study proposals and conditions and, from there, negotiate. How long a year can the painting be outside of Spain? «The casuistry of BICs is very complicated. There have been different criteria, opinions and solutions, forwards and backwards, like the Yenka. That will have to tell the Ministry.

In Spain there are many large private collectors (Abelló, Koplowitz …) who could acquire it. Have they not been interested in the painting? «Without a doubt, Spain is a country with collectors, there are people with heritage who have settled in Spain … There are many options, but we are taking the time required by Covidand the stoppage of the world economy. To date there has been no proposal from the Ministry. And have you done any? “We don’t have to propose anything. Whoever wants to buy it should say so. We are looking for a buyer».

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