Museums Collectors News Austria

Austria decides not to buy the Essl collection

Karlheinz Essl says future of his museum is secure after deal struck with creditors

“The state has no money, so I withdrew my voluntary offer. I don't want to sell the collection to anyone else,” Essl said

Austria is not going to buy the Modern art collection of the entrepreneur Karlheinz Essl, the country’s minister of culture announced yesterday, 2 April. He had offered to sell his 7,000-piece collection, most of which is housed in the Essl Museum near Vienna, to raise money to inject into his struggling DIY store chain bauMax.

“We discussed every opportunity in depth and have concluded that there will be no acquisition by the Republic,” said Josef Ostermayer, Austria's Minister of Culture, at a press conference that followed a roundtable discussion between Essl, representatives of major Austrian banks and the Ministers of Culture, Social Affairs and Finance.

“The state has no money, so I withdrew my voluntary offer. I don't want to sell the collection to anyone else,” Essl said, adding he was able to reach an agreement with his creditors that will see the museum “secured for the coming years”.

When the government said last week that it was prepared to buy the collection to save jobs, it was criticised by the directors of state museums including the Belvedere and Mumok in Vienna, institutions that have faced a drop in state support. Political parties, such as the right-wing Freedom Party, also spoke out against acquisition by the government, which they argued would be too expensive in a time of budget cuts.

Essl’s collection includes works by major Austrian artists as well as international ones, such as Gerhard Richter, Anish Kapoor and Anselm Kiefer. The collection has an estimated market value of €250m. Julia Michalska

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