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Spain Signs Agreement For Classic Painting Collection

December 22, 1988

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ The government has signed a 10-year agreement with one of world’s biggest art collectors to bring paintings by El Greco, Goya and Velazquez home for display.

The loan agreement with Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza will bring 787 of the works in his priceless collection of classic and modern art to Spain, boosting Spain to the rank of one of the world’s leading art centers.

The acquisition, which Spanish officials hope will become permament, also includes works by Holbein, Franz Hals, Tintoretto, Ghirlandaio, Canaletto, Max Beckmann, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet and Degas.

The agreement signed Tuesday by the baron and Culture Minister Jorge Semprun caps years of negotiations and represents a success for Spain over such rival bidders as West Germany, Britain and Switzerland, and the private Getty Foundation in Malibu, Calif.

The baron said his desire to have as many people as possible see his collection ″was probably the most important motive″ in his decision to bring the works temporarily to Spain.

″In doing 10 years, we can see how it works and take a decision,″ the baron said, referring to the ultimate destination of his collection. He said the final decision would be up to him, his wife and his four children.

Bringing the collection to Spain reportedly is due in large part to the influence of Carmen ″Tita″ Cervera, a former Miss Spain and the baron’s fifth wife, and to the Duke of Badajoz, Luis Gomez-Acebo, the husband of King Juan Carlos’ sister, Pilar.

The baron’s collection of between 1,200 and 1,600 works, rivaled only by that of Queen Elizabeth II as the most impressive private gathering, has been valued at $2 billion. That figure is relatively meaningless, however, because of the rapidly escalating prices for in the international art market for both old masters and modern paintings.

Most of the paintings to be loaned to Spain will hang in Madrid’s Prado Museum while others, mostly of a religious nature, will hang in the Pedralbes Monastery in Barcelona.

Both sites will be renovated to display the collection, now at the baron’s Villa Favorita residence in Lugano, Switzerland.

Mrs. Thyssen-Bornemizsa said Spanish architects Rafael Moneo, head of Harvard University’s School of Architecture, and Ricardo Bofill would draw up a design.

The accord calls for the establishment of a private Thyssen Foundation with initial funding by the government of $80 million and annual $5 million compensation payments for the loan of the artworks.

The paintings will be available for public viewing within 18 months. The government estimates 1 million visitors will see them a year.

The agreement says the pieces on loan to Spain can travel freely to other countries and museums without prior authorization from Spanish authorities.

The collection was started by Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the German steel magnate and father of the present baron, who became a Swiss citizen in 1950.

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