A $26 Million Art Battle Between Texas And The Louvre

A Texan museum bags a $26 million masterpiece, but the Louvre fights to keep it in France, sparking a cross-cultural art showdown.

The Kimbell Art Museum acquired Jean Siméon Chardin’s “The Basket of Wild Strawberries” for a substantial 24.4 million euros ($26.4 million) last March. This aims to enrich its European masterpieces collection. 

However, France’s culture ministry later denied the 18th-century masterpiece an export license. 

This declared it a “national treasure” and giving France two and a half years to match the winning bid.

READ ALSO: The Indiana Jones Of Art: 6 Stolen Historical Paintings Recovered By An Art Detective

A $26 Million Art Battle Between Texas And The Louvre.
Jean-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779) The Basket of Wild Strawberries/Photo via Artcurial’s official website.

Art World

With just under four months left and a 1.3 million euros ($1.4 million) gap, the Louvre Museum is seeking public support to retain the artwork in France. 

The Louvre initiated a fundraising campaign, describing the painting as “the quintessence of Chardin’s oeuvre.” 

The Louvre has already secured a significant portion of the funds. This includes a 15 million euros ($16.3 million) pledge from LVMH. 

Now, the museum is reaching out to the public. They are urging donations before the February deadline for the export ban. 

The Louvre initiated a fundraising campaign, describing the painting as “the quintessence of Chardin’s oeuvre.” 
The Louvre Museum/Photo by Uriel Soberanes via Unsplash

Pricey Gamble

The campaign has so far achieved 20% of its goal, with over 2,000 donors contributing. 

Various perks, such as private tours and invites to a museum cocktail reception, are offered to potential donors.

Chardin, celebrated as a great still-life artist, created the masterpiece around 1760. 

This features a pyramid of strawberries in a wicker basket. 

The painting is one of several renowned works depicting fruits like plums and peaches.

Measuring 18 inches in width, the artwork was part of the sale facilitated by auction house ArtCurial. This was conducted by a descendant of the 19th-century art collector Eudoxe Marcille. 

Initially estimated to attract bids up to 15 million euros ($16.2 million). 

The painting was ultimately acquired by the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Museum Battle

The Louvre, with over 40 Chardin pieces, views “The Basket of Wild Strawberries” as “the last (painting) of its quality to remain in private hands."
The Louvre Museum/Photo by Amy-Leigh Barnard via Unsplash

The museum, founded in 1972, houses over 300 artworks. This includes Michelangelo’s “The Torment of Saint Anthony” and pieces by prominent French artists. Artists like Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, and Paul Gauguin. 

While the Texas museum already possesses another Chardin work, the Louvre, with over 40 Chardin pieces, views “The Basket of Wild Strawberries” as “the last (painting) of its quality to remain in private hands.”

Louvre director Laurence des Cars expressed his statement in a press release. He said, “Its entry into the national collections would masterfully complete the unique ensemble already presented at the Louvre Museum. The most important by this painter in the world.” He described the painting as “imbued with the poetry of senses.”

In response to the situation, the Kimbell Art Museum’s director, Eric M. Lee, acknowledged that his institution would not be able to complete the purchase.

“While I’m sorry that the painting will not find its home at the Kimbell, I’m delighted that this masterpiece of French painting will be on view for the public at the Louvre.” He conveyed in an email statement to CNN

Lee had previously stated to the New York Times, “I agree that the painting is a national treasure of France. But I also believe that it is a world treasure and could serve as an ambassador of French culture.”

Banner photo via Artcurial’s official website.

Shop for LIFESTYLE ASIA’S magazines through these platforms.
Download LIFESTYLE ASIA’s digital magazines from:
Subscribe via [email protected]