For over a year, the Louvre has fought to acquire an 18th-century painting by Jean Siméon Chardin for its national collection. Now, the museum is receiving help in the form of 15 million euros ($16 million) from LVMH (LVMHF), the luxury conglomerate led by French billionaire Bernard Arnault.
LVMH’s donation will cover a portion of the purchase price for Basket of Wild Strawberries, a 1761 work that set auction records for Chardin when Paris-based auction house Artcurial sold it for 24.4 million euros ($26 million) last March.
In the days following the auction, the export of the work, purchased by the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, was halted when the Louvre declared the painting should be classified as a national treasure. “We are fully mobilized to bring it into the national collections,” said Laurence des Cars, the museum’s president and director, in an interview withLe Figaro.
Under the painting’s new classification, the Louvre has two and a half years to secure funding for the acquisition. A portion of the money will be raised through “All Patrons,” an annual fundraising campaign for the Louvre that runs through February of 2024. The campaign, which appeals to the public for contributions towards priority projects at the museum, has been in effect since 2010.
The Louvre will display the Chardin throughout the campaign, during which it hopes to raise 1.3 million euros ($1.4 million) from the public. Corporate donations and funds from the museum’s acquisition budget will cover the rest of the purchase price. LVMH is financially covering two-thirds of the cost, while another private company is donating 1 million euros ($1.1 million), and the patrons group Société des Amis du Louvre will provide 500,000 euros ($535,000).
“Chardin is the French Vermeer, and the Basket of Wild Strawberries is probably the last work of this quality still in private hands,” Jean-Paul Claverie, advisor to Arnault, told Observer. “We are delighted to support its acquisition by the Louvre.”
Arnault has long contributed to the art scene in France. A significant art collector with an estimated net worth of $186.3 billion, the LVMH CEO in 2014 launched Fondation Louis Vuitton. The private art museum, currently hosting a major Mark Rothko retrospective, houses the Arnault and LVMH collections.
The billionaire’s company has also supported more than 60 major art exhibitions in France and across the globe, in addition to supporting various renovations at the Château de Versailles. LVMH has long been involved in the Louvre’s annual public fundraisers, contributing to causes like its 2011 restoration of the Tuileries Garden.
LVMH’s involvement with the purchases of national treasures
LVMH’s most significant involvement in art patronage has centered on acquiring national treasures. “This is the 7th national treasure that we are contributing to buy for public collections,” Claverie said. Such support is a win-win for both museums and the company, which is entitled to up to a 90 percent tax break on purchase prices under French patronage laws.
The conglomerate made headlines earlier this year when it put up 43 million euros ($46 million) to acquire Gustave Caillebotte’s 1877 A Boating Party for the Musée d’Orsay, with the painting classified as a national treasure in 2020. At the Louvre, LVMH helped contribute to the 1998 and 2017 acquisitions of a Jacques-Louis David portrait and the Book of Hours of King Francois I. Between 2000 and 2013, it also helped with the purchase of national treasures at the Musée Guimet and Château de Versailles.