Souren Melikian catalogues the Louvre’s acquisitions and provides this fascinating accounting of how the money is assembled. According to the New York Times reporter €38m worth of art in the first five months of the year. Much of it is donated, like the YSL/Bergé Goya Melikian mentions. But some works must be paid for. Here’s how they do it:
This year, the museum continued to make acquisitions of national importance. The big catch was a portrait of the count Mathieu-Louis Molé, prime minister under King Louis-Philippe, painted by Ingres in 1834. The likeness, which remained his descendants’ property until this year, is registered as a trésor national. When the family applied for an export license, there was no question of allowing the portrait to leave the country without putting up a grand battle. And battle the Louvre did, for 30 months.
Sources say that the family initially suggested the figure of €30 million. Serious negotiation began when the Molé descendents mentioned a possible €24 million price tag. Eventually, the Louvre team, with Mr. Loyrette and Vincent Pomarède, chief curator of the paintings department, leading the charge, haggled it down to €19 million.
The yearly acquisitions fund, €7.25 million, fed by entrance fees of which 20 percent are set aside for art purchases, came nowhere near that astronomical amount, nor was it conceivable to deplete it at one go. The museum provided €5.5 million plus an additional €500,000 from a private legacy.
More decisively, it called upon “maecenases,” a denomination describing companies willing to make donations to the institution, 90 percent of which can be knocked off their annual taxation. Together three companies — the audit and consulting firm Mazars (€1 million), the engineering concern Eiffage (€4 million) and a third one requiring anonymity (€500,000) — and the Banque de France (€3 million) put up €8.5 million. Les Amis du Louvre were tapped for €3 million. Other contributors were found at the 11th hour. Mr. Loyrette said that the deal is now final and that the money is due to be fully paid before July 20.
A Paradox at the Louvre (New York Times)