"There are a thousand and something." Millions. That is the price that Carmen Cervera put on her collection while she walked through the rooms of the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, in response to Jordi Évole. The journalist asked how much her collection cost. Three years later, the widow of Baron Thyssen has rented 330 works of a set that exceeds a thousand pieces and that the Spanish State will pay 6.5 million annually for the next 15 years. The contract contains a capital annex, in which a price is set for each of the works and the whole, which reaches 1,700 million dollars, 1,490 million euros. It is an amount that multiplies by more than five the 330 million euros in which the Spanish State had valued and insured the 425 works that Carmen Thyssen lent to the museum until February 9. What has happened so that the amount has skyrocketed to a number closer to the desire of the landlord (and for less work) than the price set so far by the tenants?
It is an amount stipulated by mutual agreement by both signing parties: on the one hand, Carmen and Borja Thyssen and, on the other, the Fundación Thyssen-Bornemisza. Keep in mind that this foundation is responsible for managing the museum with public funds. Its president is the Minister of Culture on duty and the vice president for life is Carmen Thyssen herself. The only person who does not change in the Board of Trustees of the public institution is her and this causes a somewhat conflicting circumstance: tenant and landlord are the same person. The negotiations for the rent, which the former Minister of Culture José Manuel Rodríguez-Uribes closed for eight hours in the collector's La Moraleja mansion, show which interests have prevailed, if those of Carmen Cervera, president of the Thyssen Foundation, or those of Carmen Cervera, collector.
None of the parties has wanted to assess the result of the agreement with this newspaper. They prefer to "turn the page" and not clarify the price they proposed at the beginning of the negotiations. On the Carmen Cervera side, the sources that have participated in the firm explain that they have been "international experts" and the "offers for specific works" that have marked the price of the 330 works. They do not clarify what kind of experts or offers, although they do indicate that Cervera is "satisfied." "It is not relevant to clarify whether the amount [los 1.700 millones de dólares] we proposed it, because an agreement has already been reached and the contract signed. We are not interested in opening this matter now. It is a collection with many offers", add the sources that have negotiated the interests of the baroness.
This newspaper has asked the Ministry of Culture about the same aspects and this has been the answer by email: "The price referred to is not a market price or a purchase price, it is an amount for the sole purpose of granting the State Guarantee, which refers to the insurance value of the collection. The amount is determined by prior agreement between the institution that hosts the work and collection and the owner of the work. The criterion for determining the amount of the State Guarantee is solely for the purposes of establishing the public insurance of the work or collection".
With this answer it is impossible to know what has been the criteria with which the collection has been valued and the procedure that has been followed to set its price and negotiate with the collector. The rent is an option to purchase once it ends and the price, the "million and a bit", is the marked one. The Ministry of Culture itself clarifies that they have not been the experts who dedicate themselves to it in the Qualification, Valuation and Export Board. This organization declared the "exceptional value" of the collection, but "not in economic terms but in terms of uniqueness, artistic quality and special interest". It is striking that an independent body linked to Culture, whose components go out to the market to acquire goods at auctions for Spanish heritage, have not been consulted for this task.
And it is even more striking that point 7.3 of the contract indicates that the price of the works to be insured by the Spanish State will be updated by mutual agreement every two years. And in the event that there is disagreement between the parties about updating the prices of any work, then yes, "the parties will request the Historical Heritage Qualification, Valuation and Export Board to report on the international market value in euros of that work." But the contract makes it clear in the next point that the agency with the top appraisal experts in the country will not resolve the disagreement. The disagreement will be resolved by "one of the most prestigious international agencies chosen by mutual agreement." That is, Christie's or Sotheby's. "This valuation will be binding for the parties, without being subject to challenge and without the need for any formality", can be read in the text.
From the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation they assure, contrary to what the Ministry of Culture indicates, that it was "the Board of Qualification, Valuation and Export of Goods, dated February 7, 2021 [un año antes de la firma del contrato]who established a value for the Carmen Thyssen Collection of 1,469,398 euros for the granting of the State Guarantee". The managing director of the foundation is Evelio Acevedo, who was the "master of ceremonies" on the day the contract was signed. for rent, in front of kill mua and before a cloud of cameras. So, who has put a price on the Cervera collection? Everything seems to indicate that the owner herself has set her price. Thus, kill mua It has gone from being valued by the State Guarantee at 40 million euros to 250 million dollars.
"This is the big problem of all these years and of this contract: no minister has dared to put a price on Carmen's collection. Nobody has stood up to him and everyone has allowed himself to be blackmailed. The big problem is that we have not had ministers brave women who would have turned to the Board or to independent bodies to make a real market appraisal. Those contract prices are not real. Nobody has dared to make a sensible market appraisal and, in the end, has imposed the one she wanted". This quote belongs to the person in charge of one of the most important art auction houses in Spain. Carmen Thyssen is a client of theirs and she makes it very clear that she does not want to appear under her name because she cannot afford to be "on the black list of the Ministry of Culture".
He is not the only person who claims anonymity to comment on the operation. A very famous antique dealer defines the rental signature as "absurd". "Only 10% of the works in that collection are of interest. There are 20 first-rate paintings and the rest are second-tier fillers by famous authors, such as Van Gogh's painting. They are very residual things," he says. When we tell him that this canvas, entitled Water mill in Gennep (1884), has valued it at 25 million euros, shouts indignantly and points out that she bought it for half a million pounds after being left without a buyer at auction. "Mata Mua it is not worth 250 million dollars", assures the specialist in modern art. "The Administration has lowered its pants in front of this lady. It's a scandal, "he concludes in a telephone conversation.
The contract also states that "the beneficiary of the State guarantee will always be the lessors [Carmen y Borja Thyssen]who will receive, in the event of a claim, the amount in euros". A former director of the Foundation tells this newspaper that "it is convenient for them to set fire to the collection and collect the insurance because that price is a chimera". We get in touch with a renowned art dealer who does not want to be quoted either.The climate in which this operation moves and has moved has benefited the closing of a contract full of obstacles for the Administration.
The dealer points out that it would have been enough to go through the specialized publications artprice or artnet to collate the prices that Cervera claimed for his works. And he gives an example: to the 20 million dollars in which it has been valued the white man (1907), by Lyonel Feininger, "they have a zero to spare." "The Board should have been in charge of putting a price on the collection. They are very aware of what art costs. The problem is that nobody in Culture has appraised the collection, nobody has put a real price on it and has done what it has dear. Because that of the international offers is very difficult to prove", adds the dealer.
We went to the professional appraiser Sara Rodríguez Canal, director of ArtePeritaje. We ask you to make an express appraisal of some of the most valued paintings. She says that her work method is to compare prices in the market. "Obviously it has to be the same material and working technique (in this case they are all oil on canvas), in addition to looking for works that have a similar content (figurative, portrait, landscape...) and, if the artist has a great work and tends to change the style, try to focus on the works that are most similar to the one we want to appraise or appraise", indicates the expert. With these data they check the price of their sale. An appraisal, she says, is a target base price, though you can never know if an auction will end up tripling its price.
Based on these data, he indicates that the price of Fishing (fishermen) (1909), by Natalia Goncharova, would be around 256,008 euros. It's listed at $20 million. Goncharova's most expensive work has been sold for 6.5 million euros. Jean-Honoré Fragonard appears portrait of young lady (1770-1772), valued by Cervera at 10 million dollars and the specialist says that in the market it would be around 277,686 euros and 458,721 euros. From Jean Corot the collection has Loneliness. Memory of Vigen. Limousin (1866), and is also valued at $20 million. "Corot, for example, is an artist who has gone down a lot in the market, down almost 50% since 2021. So this work two years ago we could find it on the market for 413,848 euros and right now it would be around 181,758 euros", indicates Sara Rodríguez. Also in 20 million dollars appears the white man (1907), by Lyonel Feininger, but for the specialist this painting would cost around a million euros.
According to the contract list, Portuguese (The great Portuguese, 1916), by Robert Delaunay, would cost the market, again, 20 million dollars; the expert assures that it would not exceed 2.3 million euros. The work of Frederic Church is listed at 5 million dollars south american landscape (1856): "Of Frederic it is important to see that the work is from the period of 1850, whose works are the most valued, so we would find it between 950,450 euros".
It coincides with the appraisal in a painting, that of Vincent Van Gogh, Water mill in Gennep (1884), to which the Cervera list puts a price of 25 million dollars. “This work in 2004 could be found on the market between 5,754,583 euros and 7,354,591 euros. Right now he is an artist who is on the rise, so he would be valued at around 28,374,591 euros”, explains Sara Rodríguez. When she discovers the price at which all these paintings have been appraised, she is amazed at him. She also does not understand how it is possible that the expertise of this collection has not been carried out by several experts.