The buyer of Jean Siméon Chardin’s Basket of Wild Strawberries painting, which sold for a record €24.3m in March, has been revealed. The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, purchased the work according to our sister paper, The Art Newspaper France, only to be thwarted by the Louvre which blocked the export of the work after the sale.
The painting, executed in 1761, was sold at the Paris auction house Artcurial late March to the dealer Adam Williams who was bidding in the room on behalf of his client. But the sale of the Chardin still-life was put on hold last month after the Louvre stepped in. Its director, Laurence des Cars, told Le Figaro that she has requested Basket of Wild Strawberries should be classed as “a national treasure”, and is seeking sponsorship to buy it. Under French law, which is much stricter than UK law on such matters, this means the work can be held for two-and-a-half-years.
Eric Lee, the director of the Kimbell Art Museum, told The Art Newspaper France that he gave Williams “a [bidding] limit. But the price is not important for a masterpiece like this. In any case, I think the price is fair for the market.” He adds that he was aware before the sale that an export licence may not be granted for the work.
“But this painting is worth waiting for, even if we consider the Louvre may finally obtain it. It’s a win-win in every sense as a public collection will acquire the work. This piece is a national treasure in France, it would be a treasure in our museum, where the painting would be in perfect harmony with the intimacy, serenity, and timelessness of the architecture,” Lee says.
Some experts and curators have however privately expressed concerns over the purchase of such an expensive work by the Louvre when the museum’s budget has collapsed, especially considering it already has 41 Chardins in its collection. The oil and gas multinational TotalEnergies, a Louvre sponsor, could reportedly help fund the acquisition however.
UPDATE: This article was amended to include an updated quote from Eric Lee.