Germany – WestSpiel Warhols spark controversyBy Lewis - 14 November 2014
Germany-based casino group,WestSpiel, which operates six casinos in Germany and has announced plans to open a seventh in Cologne, has come under fire over the sale of two works of art. Two Andy Warhol artworks sold for a combined $152m this week in New York, both of which were formerly the property of the government-owned WestSpiel. The Christie’s auction saw “Triple Elvis” sell for $82m and “Four Marlons” for $70m to two anonymous bidders. Both belonged to WestSpiel, a casino operator owned by state-run NRW.Bank.
The paintings had been on display in a casino in the city of Aachen since the late 1970s after WestSpiel bought them for a combined $185,000. In 2009, once casino officials realised just how valuable the pieces were, the works were put in storage. Last month, 26 state museum directors across Germany wrote an open letter declaring that the sale of WestSpiel’s Warhols could set a bad example for other state entities hoping to plug budget holes, writing that “a precedent is being created that [towns], publicly owned companies and the future might follow. Public property and museum property would no longer be safe.”
WestSpiel says that more than $100m of the money from its Warhols will go towards a financial restructuring of the bank that owns it as well as construction of its Cologne project.