Israel Museum seeks to net $17m from art sale

Works by Pissarro, Soutine, Picasso, and Chagall will be among those offered at international auctions.

The Israel Museum will put up for sale 38 rare artworks, with an estimated value of $17 million. The museum plans to use the proceeds to upgrade its collection. Sotheby's will sell the artworks in a series of auctions, beginning on November 2, 2011, in New York, and ending in February 2012 in London.

The art up for sale includes "Le droit chemin" oil by surrealist Rene Magritte, estimated at $2.5-3.5 million; works by Camille Pissarro and Marc Chagall, estimated at $1.5-2.5 million per painting; and works by Chaïm Soutine, Pablo Picasso, and other important artists.

This is an extraordinary event that will likely echo through the international market. Museums rarely sell pieces from their collections. The Israel Museum's decision highlights the difficulties in improving their collections through donations and acquisitions budgets. Reasons for this situation include the economic crisis since 2008, which has caused donors to reduce large donations to the arts. Even before the crisis, especially in the preceding decade, soaring prices for top works of art made it difficult for museums to buy works of art.

The Israel Museum has set up an acquisitions team to help it create an organized system of acquisitions, but the process is quite complicated. Sometimes, there is competition for newly recognized important works art, and not just for already valuable pieces. Museums, which always have budget constraints, are struggling. For example, reports claim that New York's MOMA has bought the important piece "The Clock" by Christian Marclay, currently on display at the Israel Museum in its first display in a leading museum.

In a precedent in May 2007, the Israel Museum put up for sale a work by American artist Jean Michel Basquiat. The 1981 painting was valued at $6-8 million and sold for $14.6 million, demonstrating the healthy intuition by Israel Museum's curator Susan Landau, who spotted the growing interest in the artist and reaped the market bonanza, which museum's were missing.

The Israel Museum has 500,000 objects and works of art in its collection, which have been amassed since it was opened in 1965. The works now up for sale were chosen by a special expert committee, and the proceeds from the sales will go to the museum's modern art acquisitions fund.

Israel Museum director James Snyder said, "The objective of the sale is to improve the museum's collections. Proceeds from the sales will enable the acquisition of works that will emphasize certain aspects and fill gaps in the collection."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 3, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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