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Spain Finalizes Agreement to Pay to Keep Baroness Thyssen’s Collection in Madrid

The Ministry of Culture in Spain has officially finalized an agreement to loan the collection of Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza for an annual fee of 6.5 million euros ($7.8 million), El País reports. Though steps had been made toward the agreement in February, it wasn’t until this week that the 15-year deal was made official.

Spain’s Minister of Culture, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, said to El Pais that the delays were purely bureaucratic. “They are technical nuances and at the moment the important issues were already agreed upon,” he said in May. 

The Baroness’ collection is valued at 1.04 billion euros ($1.3 billion dollars). It includes 180 paintings and sculptures from masters such as Van Gogh, Velázquez, Rodin, and Gauguin, whose 1892 painting Mata Mua re-entered the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum’s galleries after a period of absence in 2020.

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A former “Miss Spain” pageant winner, the Baroness began collecting art after marrying her husband Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, a prolific collector himself, in 1985. The Baron’s collection was moved from the family estate in Lugano, Switzerland, to create the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid in 1992 with the Baroness’ encouragement. The Spanish government bought the Baron’s collection for $350 million dollars. Beginning in 1999, the Baroness lent her own collection to the museum for free, until now. 

Citing issues of liquidity since her husband’s death in 2002, the Baroness sold off a jewel of her collection, John Constable’s The Lock, to weather the financial crises. “After loaning my collection to this museum for 13 years without receiving a single penny, I had to do something,” she told El País. “It’s very painful for me, but there was no other way out. Keeping the collection here is costly to me, and I get nothing in return.” The Lock sold for $25 million at a Christie’s auction.

In 2015, she delayed the annual renewal of her loan while deciding whether or not to temporarily move her collection for a fee to a museum in Barcelona, the United States, or Russia, the Art Newspaper reported. She eventually decided to keep the collection in Madrid, but in 2017, she again delayed signing the agreement. The Spanish government then entered into a period of negotiation with her, resulting in the arrangement to pay for the collection loan as well as a commitment to work with the Baroness and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation to open a museum in San Feliu de Guixols, on the Costa Brava.

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