Contemporary art Collectors Austria

Austria considers bailing out collector

Karlheinz Essl is offering his 7,000 works of art to the state to save 4,000 jobs at his struggling DIY firm

Karlheinz Essl is meeting with government officials to discuss selling his collection. Photo: Lilli Strauss/DAPD

Austria’s minister of culture, Josef Ostermayer, will meet with Karlheinz Essl on 2 April to discuss the fate of his huge contemporary art collection, according to reports in the Austrian press. Essl, the owner of the Austrian DIY firm bauMax, is hoping to sell the 7,000 works in his collection to the Austrian state in an effort to bail out his struggling business and save 4,000 jobs. The collection includes works by major Austrian artists such as Maria Lassnig, Arnulf Rainer and Hermann Nitsch as well as international names such as Gerhard Richter, Anish Kapoor and Anselm Kiefer. It has an estimated market value of €250m.

The discussions are due to be held at the culture ministry offices, and will include Essl, the minister of culture, representatives of major Austrian banks, the ministry of social affairs and the ministry of finance.

Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the fledgling Team Stronach party have spoken out against a government acquisition of the collection, which they argue would be too expensive, and would not inject enough capital to save the failing company.

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