A London sale of 85 paintings by Spanish artist Joan Miro was cancelled yesterday by auctioneer Christie’s, citing “a dispute before the Portuguese court, to which Christie’s is not a party.”
The paintings – valued at $49 million – were being offered for sale by the Portuguese government. They form part of the assets of Portugal’s BPN bank, which was nationalised in 2008. The aim of the sale was to recoup some of the money spent bailing out the bank during the financial crisis.
Opposition politicians oppose the sale on the grounds that the paintings are part of Portugal’s cultural heritage and should not be sold overseas. Earlier on Tuesday a Lisbon court rejected their appeal against the sale. However, Christie’s made the decision to cancel the auction.
The auction house said in a statement: “While the recent injunction to stop the sale was not granted, the legal uncertainties created by this ongoing dispute mean that we are not able to safely offer the works for sale.” The statement added: “We have a responsibility to our buyers to be sure that legal title can transfer to them without issue.”