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In Saint-Priest, the town hall wants to sell its treasure, a painting by Richter

The sale of a painting by the painter Gerhard Richter, envisaged by the town hall of Saint-Priest (metropolis of Lyon), panics collectors and questions the cultural policies of local communities. Acquired by the city in 1988, for a price of 100,000 francs (around 15,000 euros), the abstract canvas in red tones of 82 by 67 centimeters, entitled Abstraktes Bild 630-2, is now estimated at several million euros. “This work was sleeping in a safe. We could no longer expose it, given the cost of insurance. Should she have been left out of reach until the dawn of time? I think its place is in a museum or a private collection ” explains Gilles Gascon (LR), 54, mayor of Saint-Priest. “This is not a cookie cutter decision. I think it is in the interest of the municipality ” specifies the elected official who promises to invest the proceeds of the sale in the city’s cultural facilities.

A deliberation voted on Thursday, November 28 by the city council initiated the process which should lead to a call for tenders to appoint an auctioneer, in order to sell the canvas of the famous contemporary artist, painter among the most expensive in the world, as well as seven other paintings held by the municipality. With a legal debate which promises to be thorny. According to a decree published in July, the Ministry of Culture must issue an opinion on the declassification (exit from the public domain) of any cultural property belonging to « A public person ». The text also specifies that downgrading is only possible if the work has « lost its public interest ». Are the regulations relevant to the local level? Not sure, according to the lawyers contacted by the municipality. The prefecture will also pay a lot of attention to the control of the legality of the municipal decision.

« Offer a strong cultural environment »

The prospect of the sale makes  » sad »Robert Rivière, 82 years old. The former cultural assistant of Saint-Priest had unearthed the German painter’s painting in a Parisian gallery, advised by a contemporary art enthusiast. At the time, art libraries were booming, and many cities dreamed of contemporary art museums. “Our idea was to make the city attractive, to keep its population, and therefore to offer a strong cultural environment. We had acquired 75 works for our municipal gallery, including twenty deposited by the State and the region, we did two exhibitions per year with the DRAC, it was great! «  remembers the former elected socialist.

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