Germany’s ongoing controversy over the sale of two Andy Warhol paintings has become a war of words as politicians have waded into the continuing issue over the sale of the works reported the FAZ newspaper. ‘Triple Elvis (1963)’ and ‘Four Marlons (1966)’ hold a combined estimated value of £79 million and are being sold by the Westspiel casino conglomerate.
In a petition sent to regional government last week, twenty-six museum directors in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia claimed 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.
It has now emerged that the casino chain Westspiel is in fact a subsidiary of the State Bank of North Rhine-Westphalia; this fact has now prompted German culture minister Monika Grütters of the center-right CDU party to accuse North Rhine-Westphalia’s centre-left-led regional government of selling the artworks to consolidate state debts. Telling FAZ she stated: “Artworks are not objects of speculation for the public sector. To sell them in order to refill state coffers would be an indecent systemic failure. Art and culture entrusted to us must be protected on all levels.”
Yet the minister president of North Rhine-Westphalia Hannelore Kraft of the center-left SPD made stated resolutely that she cannot stop the sale of ‘Triple Elvis (1963’) and ‘Four Marlons (1966)’ due to the simple fact that they are not items of national cultural importance – as defined by the Culture Protection Act of Germany. The minister added that the purchase of the paintings by the state was “currently not an option.” However she went on to assure the regional government that the money from the sale of the paintings would not be used to to pay off state debts. “This taboo will not happen,” she said, according to DW.
In a response to the museum directors petition; Kraft said Westspiel had acquired the paintings with their own resources; and that as the casino group is a legally independent company, the government has no influence over the sale of the works. Westspiel has indicated that it intends to use the proceeds to update it’s casino architecture.