Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Scheringa Museum for Realist Art raided by bailiffs

It looks for all the world like a nocturnal art heist, and I suppose in some respects that is what it is. But when a bunch of heavies arrived in a truck this week to empty Holland's Scheringa Museum of Realist Art of its entire collection, it offered further evidence of the increasingly intimate relationship between art and capital and the catastrophic consequences when the relationship founders.

The Museum's demise is directly linked to the collapse of the Dutch DSB Bank owned by the Museum's founder and owner, Dirk Scheringa. The bank suffered a Northern Rock-style run over recent days, effectively forcing it into liquidation by its creditors, Dutch bank ABN Amro (whose removal men were at least considerate enough to use bubble wrap to protect the exhibits they impounded).

This torrid tale might be read as an unwelcome foretelling of how the art market could unfold in the coming few years. For all the upbeat messages spun out of the Frieze Fair this past week by its media owners, the art market might yet suffer from a 'double-dip' recession. The part played by debt funds and the financial sector's other dark materials is already being dramatically played out in Scheringa.

Many believed the Scheringa Museum voor Realisme was independent of the bank, securely funded and firewalled by its 'Foundation' status. In fact, its collection was standing as security for a Euro32 million loan.

More on this in the next few days....

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