Potential buyer of the Kimbell Art Museum in Texas reacts to the Louvre’s seizure of a 24.4 million euro Chardin painting

The upset potential buyer of a ‘mesmerizing’ 18th century painting by French artist Jean Simeon Chardin has said he has no regrets after the Louvre intervened to block the sale.

Chardin’s “Basket of Wild Strawberries”, painted in 1761, went for €24.4 million – a record for the artist, and €12.5 million above the estimate – in March at home auction house in Paris, to a New York art dealer on behalf of a then unknown bidder.

But the Louvre then blocked the sale, director Laurence des Cars revealing that the museum wanted to see the painting classified as a national treasure.

The Ministry of Culture did so at the end of April. Under French law, this suspends its export or sale for two and a half years, giving the state time to raise the sum necessary for its acquisition.

The Louvre already has 41 works by Chardin in its collection but only around 4.5 to 7.5 million euros a year to spend on acquisitions, and is now looking for sponsors to buy the image.

“We are fully mobilized to bring it into the national collection,” said Laurence des Cars, president and director of the Louvre. Le Figaro in March.

Texan buyer: we will wait for Chardin’s “timeless” painting

For the first time since the sale, the mystery shopper was revealed this week to be the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Museum director Eric Lee last saw the work in February after it was sent from a private collection for display in a New York gallery.

Lee told Art Newspaper France that in his opinion the photo was “worth the wait” – even though it never returned to American soil. “Even if we consider that the Louvre can finally get it,” he said, “it’s a win-win in every way because a major museum is going to acquire the work.”

But added: “In imagining this painting hanging in our galleries, I don’t think anything could be more beautiful. The qualities of the painting – this intimacy, this serenity and this timelessness – these are qualities that are also found in the architecture of Louis Kahn. [the designer of the museum building, which dates back to 1972].

“I agree that painting is a national treasure of France. But I also believe that it is a world treasure and that it could serve as an ambassador of French culture.

Mildred D. Field