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Spain Agrees To Purchase Thyssen Collection

June 19, 1993

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Spain has clinched an extraordinary deal to buy one of the world’s largest and most prized private art collections at one-fifth its estimated value.

Under an agreement announced Friday, the Spanish government will pay $350 million for the 775-piece collection of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen- Bornemisza. The Swiss industrialist’s collection of pieces from the 10th century to the present is considered a rare private assortment surpassed in size only by that of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain.

″It’s an enormous satisfaction for everybody to conclude this deal successfully,″ Culture Minister Jori Sole Tura told reporters. ″There are few precedents with which this can be compared.″

Reports that the Spanish government was working out a deal to buy the artworks for a token sum appeared in Spanish media in February.

The paintings had been on loan to Spain for 9 1/2 years in return for $90 million after they outgrew their home in Switzerland. The collection has been housed since October in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, an 18th- century palace refurbished especially for the collection.

Competition to house the artworks on loan had been fierce. Britain proposed the National Gallery, Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany offered to build a special museum and the Getty Foundation in Malibu, Cal., nearly doubled the Spanish bid.

The baron’s connection to Spain comes through his wife, Carmen Cervera, a former Miss Spain who is said to have been instrumental in persuading him to choose Madrid as the collection’s new home.

Under terms of the new agreement, the collection may not be broken up or sold, although individual pieces may be loaned to other museums.

The baron’s father, German industrialist Baron Heinrich Thyseen-Bornemisza, laid the foundations for the collection in the 1920s when he took advantage of the world depression to buy up Old Master paintings.

The younger Thyssen, ignoring his father’s admonition that any art produced after the 18th century was not worth collecting, branched out into impressionism, 19th century genre painting, cubism, surrealism, fauvism, expressionism, Russian avante-garde and pop art.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza museum, together with the Prado and Reina Sofia Modern Art Center, make up Madrid’s so-called Golden Triangle of art.

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