National Gallery will sell Chagall piece even if it doesn't get its replacement
Two Quebec museums want to team up and buy Jacques-Louis David painting
The director of the National Gallery of Canada says he will sell a Marc Chagall painting even if two Quebec museums get the money to purchase the same French painting he's targeting.
Gallery director and CEO Marc Mayer revealed earlier this week he wants to purchase Saint Jerome Hears the Trumpet of the Last Judgment, painted in 1779 by Jacques-Louis David.
His gallery has agreed to buy it for $5 million, and to raise the money they're planning to sell Chagall's The Eiffel Tower at an auction next month.
The David painting is owned today by Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral, which is looking to sell the work.
They approached Canadian museums and also received interest from international buyers.
The New York auction house handling the sale expects the Chagall to sell for somewhere between $6 million US and $9 million US.
Quebec museums may team up
Quebec City's Musée de la civilisation has the right of first refusal to purchase the David painting and is considering working with the Montreal Museum of Fine Art to buy it.
They have also suggested the National Gallery could partner with them.
Mayer said if those museums get the painting, that's great, but he doesn't want to share it.
"Old master paintings are fragile, they're old. It's not like a child of a divorced couple that is shuttling between two parents," he said. "It is expensive and risky to move these paintings."
If the gallery purchases the work, it will be a "five-minute walk" from Quebec and the most important thing is to keep it in the country, he said.
"We're not taking a piece of Quebec heritage. We're saving a work for Canada that shouldn't leave the country and you're welcome, Montreal."
Backup plan: A 'safety net' fund
The National Gallery won't try to outbid the Quebec museums, and even if they're successful, the gallery will still sell the Chagall painting.
"If they feel very passionate that it should stay in Quebec, and they find the means, then we will sell the Chagall," he said.
"Canada [would] finally have a safety net to prevent these kinds of cultural treasures from leaving."
There are more important works in private hands in Canada, and the gallery needs a bigger acquisitions fund because current laws don't prevent sales to international buyers, they only delay them.
"This is not the last time that we're going to be confronted with this," Mayer said. "This gives us a fighting chance the next time this happens."