BERLIN (dpa) – German authorities have launched moves to prohibit the export of two violins made by music great Antonio Stradivari, as well as key items from an outstanding collection of paintings.
An outcry developed last year over plans by a troubled state-owned bank to offer some of its treasures for sale internationally. German museums say they cannot afford to bid for the art against wealthy private collectors in the Sotheby’s and Christie’s art salerooms.
Yielding to the criticism, the state of North Rhine Westphalia said this week it had summoned its committee on cultural treasures of significance to the nation to rule on whether the Stradivaris, a cello and up to 30 pieces of art should be subject to an export ban.
One of the violins, known as Lady Inchiquin, dates from 1711 and is on loan to the world-class violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann. The other dates from 1684. The 1860 Italian cello is by Giuseppe Antonio (or Joseph) Rocca.
The art collection was built up to grace the walls of West Deutsche Landesbank (WestLB), one of Germany’s biggest banks before it succumbed to debt crises and a European Union ruling that state-guaranteed banks distort free competition and are illegal.
WestLB’s shrunken core operating unit is now known as Portigon. It was eager to sell the valuable art, which includes items by August Macke, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Beuys and Sigmar Polke, to reduce debt.