An outstanding collection of 85 works covering seven Decades of work by the Spanish artist Joan Miró’s (1893–1983) has been given the green light to stay in Portugal after the government said it had decided to keep the works, following an outcry over their proposed sale to foreign buyers. The paintings, estimated to be worth around 35 million euros ($39 million), came under state ownership in 2008 when the government nationalised the failed bank BNP which had built up the Surrealist collection. They were originally set for the auction block at Christie’s but withdrawn after public protest.
The former centre-right government put them up for auction in London in 2014 to raise cash, but they were withdrawn after an outcry and a legal challenge from political opponents and activists. Centre-left Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced Tuesday that the government had “finally decided to keep the famous collection of Miro works in the city of Porto.” It is unclear if they will remain state-owned or be sold to private collectors, but a government official said any private buyer would have to accept keeping them in Porto.
The paintings will go on display for the first time next Saturday at the city’s Serralves museum in an exhibition that runs until January 28. This is one of the most extensive and impressive collections of works by the artist. An important figure in 20th-century art, Miró was highly influential for a huge number of artists, from Picasso to Pollock. Most often associated with Surrealism, Miró’s work has an appeal that transcends traditional categories, with today’s market seeing collectors of both Impressionist & Modern Art and Post-War & Contemporary Art compete for his paintings, works on paper and sculptures.
Highlighting Miró’s incredible ability to innovate, the works feature a wide range of materials and techniques as well as his key themes and subjects, from poetry and dreams to music and stars, women and birds. He was an artist who allowed himself to be influenced by a range of things, from music, poetry and then hallucinations induced by hunger during his early years in Paris, to patterns made by chance, to the materials themselves.