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French Collector Pulls Loans from MACBA After Catalonia Referendum

Due to the political unrest in Catalonia caused by an independence referendum held on October 1, which was ruled illegal by the Spanish government, French collector Philippe Méaille is withdrawing more than five hundred artworks that he had loaned to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA).

Méaille had agreed to a long-term loan in order to exhibit his collection of contemporary art at the museum in 2010. However, a statement released by the Château de Montsoreau, the French institution which houses Méaille’s works, said the collector will not renew the loan with MACBA.

“This is not a political decision,” Méaille said in an interview with Lorena Muñoz-Alonso of Artnet. “The decision to repatriate the collection to the Château de Montsoreau-Museum of Contemporary Art has been taken because of the political instability in Catalonia, and because I feel insecure about political issues regarding the collection.”

He added, “MACBA has done a wonderful job in the past seven years and their expertise in contemporary art is irreplaceable. I hope that our two institutions would be able to work together again in the future.”

In response MACBA issued the following statement: “The security of all works in the MACBA Artistic Fonds is fully guaranteed, while all works are subject to the highest conservation standards. In 2010, the French collector deposited his collection of works of the group Art & Language at MACBA. In 2014, MACBA dedicated an exhibition to these works. In April 2017, prior to the finalization of the loan, Mr. Méaille received a continuity proposal for which the museum has yet to receive a formal response. Although Art & Language remains represented in the MACBA Collection, the museum regrets Mr. Méaille’s refusal to sign the proposed loan extension with arguments that do not at all reflect the real situation.”

The museum joined thousands of Catalans who participated in a general strike on Tuesday, October 3. The action was organized in protest of the violent clashes between voters and police, who tried to shut down voting stations across Catalonia. On Wednesday, October 11, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy asked the Catalan government to clarify whether they have made an official declaration of independence. If the region announces its sovereignty, Rajoy will give Catalonia eight days to reverse the proclamation. Spain is threatening to suspend the Catalan government if it refuses the reversal.