Joan Miró auction canceled due to controversy

Works by the celebrated surrealist painter and sculptor Joan Miró were pulled from a London art auction mere hours before its scheduled start time amid public backlash in Portugal. The Wall Street Journal reported that the paintings were originally bought by the Banco Português de Negócios in 2006 from a Japanese art collector. When BPN was nationalized in 2008, the art fell under state ownership. The Portuguese government had planned to sell the paintings in order to ease its debt of 200 billion euros. This move was met with substantial opposition from groups that perceived the government as selling out the country's cultural patrimony for minimal gains.

The Miró collection
The collection to be auctioned included 85 works valued at a total of $49 million, an amount that would have been but a slight dent in the country's substantial national debt. Two of the most highly valued pieces set to hit the block were the 1968 oil painting "Women and Birds" and the 1953 work titled "Painting." "Women and Birds" was set to sell for $6.5 million to $11.4 million, while "Painting" would have gone for anywhere between $4.1 million and $5.7 million.

Both of these paintings are excellent examples of Miró's style, a style that went on to have an effect on almost all Modernist painters that followed, from Pablo Picasso to Jackson Pollock. Born in Barcelona in 1893, Miró enjoyed a career that spanned seven decades and included works in all mediums including painting, drawing, sculpting and ceramics. His work exhibits an abstract playfulness in its freeform use of color and shape compared to the harsh subject matter of Europe in the early 20th century.

Failed injunction
The state's attempt to sell off the Miró paintings was met with the greatest opposition from the Portuguese Socialist Party that, along with the country's prosecutor, went to court to get an injunction against the auction. The request was denied by a high court in Lisbon, though it ruled that the transfer of the works to London did not have the proper authorization. Amid the controversy, the London auction house responsible for selling the pieces made the independent decision to halt the sale. The collection is currently being held in its storage facility.

While this valuable collection of Miró's work may be currently off the market, art collectors can still find lots of exciting pieces from auctions around the world at Using iCollector, collectors can browse current and upcoming auctions and place absentee bids online.

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