Major art collection loaned to Spain for 15 years

Cuban-American multimillionaire Roberto Polo will loan his collection of 7,000 contemporary paintings, sculptures and photos to Spain for 15 years, the country's biggest cultural deal in over 20 years.

Major art collection loaned to Spain for 15 years
Roberto Polo has donated 7,000 artworks to be shown in Toledo and Cuenca.

The collection, which includes works by German artist Max Ernst and US sculptor Martin Kline, will be shown at museums in Toledo and Cuenca in central Spain, the president of the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha, Emiliano Garcia-Page, told a news conference in Toledo.

After 15 years the loan period may be extended or the works may be donated to Spain, he added.

Garcia-Page said this was “the most important cultural operation for the country” since the Spanish government in 1993 agreed to buy the prized art collection of the Swiss industrialist Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Officials did not give an estimate for the value of the works which will be loaned but top-selling daily newspaper El Pais said the collection is insured for $50 million (€44 million).

“I have always loaned works, and in the end if they have been well taken care of, valued and respected, I have always ended up donating them, but I first want to have proof that they are valued and respected as they should,” said Polo, who lives in Brussels where he owns an art gallery that bears his

“I am going to turn 66 in August and in 15 years I will not have many more years left,” he added.

Polo, whose parents moved to Miami from Cuba after the Castro regime seized their assets in 1961, said he wanted to die “with empty hands” and without taking “anything to the grave”.

The regional government of Catilla-La Mancha will refurbish the Santa Fe museum in Toledo, and a public records archive in Cuenca, to display the works but Polo will receive no money for the loan of the works, Garcia-Page said.   

The works will start to be displayed in Toledo from the middle of 2018, and in Cuenca shortly after, a spokesman for the regional government said.

By Diego Urdaneta / AFP


Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.


In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.