In mid-september the German casino conglomerate Westspiel announced their plan to sell ‘Triple Elvis’ (1963) and ‘Four Marlons’ (1966) at Christie’s, New York in November. The paintings are expected to fetch over €100 million or £80 million. A petition has since been sent by twenty-six museum directors in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia to the regional government, demanding it prevent the auction of two works by Andy Warhol, reports Die Welt.
In the petition, the directors claim that the sale “contravenes international conventions” whose ultimate goal is to “protect public cultural heritage.” They fear the sale could set a very dangerous precedent that could become a “controversial political issue with considerable ripple effect.” The museum directors’ action reflects the seriousness with which they view the situation at hand, and is the most formal to arise against the works’ sale.
Reinvesting the profits from the sale into the purchase of new art would be “the only way [for the company] to avoid losing their reputation internationally,” the statement by the directors claims. The creators of the petition then went further and accused Westspiel of selling the artworks in order to either pay back debts or as an investment in the construction of a new casino in Cologne.
Westspiel bought the works in 1976 from Thomas Ammann Fine Art – a Zurich-based gallery – for approximately €200,000 or £155,000 – the sale would therefore provide a very substantial return on investment – According to information from Christie’s.
The museums have stated that it is the governments’ responsibility to ensure that all important art remains accessible to the public. They go on to warn that failing to prevent the sale would damage North Rhine-Westphalia and Germany’s reputation as a “cultural country and cultural nation.”