when the american Citi Group sell your commercial banking business Mexicowill also leave behind works by famous artists such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, which the government and experts ask to keep in the country.
Some 600 pictorial works, pieces of popular art and buildings from the colonial era are part of the heritage that the bank incorporated for decades and that is also part of the sale of its brand Banamexannounced last January.
It is one of the most important private collections in Mexico, now a matter of national interest.
the Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obradorhas said that the bank’s cultural assets must remain in the country, at a time when his government seeks to prevent pieces of Mexican heritage, mainly pre-Hispanic, from being auctioned abroad.
“We are talking about art collections from the best artists, painters from Mexico and also from the world,” said the president after announcing the sale.
López Obrador has also stated that he would like to see Banamex in Mexican hands, citing as possible buyers the richest man in Mexico, Carlos Slim, and the controversial businessman Ricardo Salinas Pliego, owner of Televisión Azteca, one of the main networks in the country.
The artistic collection “should become national property for its preservation,” says Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who believes that it would be in compensation for a bank rescue that the Mexican government carried out in the 1990s.
Integral part of the sale
Banamex is one of the oldest banks in Mexico. It began operations in 1884 and its artistic and cultural heritage has not stopped growing, even when it was sold to Citigroup in 2001.
Just that year, a movement of political and cultural personalities in which Ebrard participated unsuccessfully sought for the State to take over the bank’s artistic heritage. Now, the fear of some experts is that the collection will disperse.
“That in the sale they take into account this unit as a collection and its incalculable value far beyond economic terms,” said Hilda Trujillo, a specialist in 20th-century Mexican art collections and former director of the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Anahuacalli museums in Mexico City.
“That it be treated with all the care as part of the country’s heritage and artistic heritage,” he added.
Alberto Gómez Alcalá, director of Institutional Development, Economic Studies and Communication at Citibanamex, said that cultural assets “are an integral and indivisible part” of the sale process, so “whoever buys commercial banking operations in Mexico must also acquire the collection.
But he avoided setting a price. “It does not matter the number in pesos and cents that we can give. That is why we say that it is invaluable and we are sure that it will continue to be so, ”he said.
key part of the story
Citibanamex’s art collection includes works such as “Vendedora de alcatraces,” which Diego Rivera, one of the greatest Mexican muralists of the 20th century, painted in 1942.
The piece occupies a prominent place inside the Foro Valparaíso, an 18th-century building located in the heart of Mexico City that also belongs to the bank.
Rivera’s painting is accompanied in that place by equally important works of 20th century Mexican painting such as “Woman with metate”, which the muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros painted in 1931; “The fruits of the earth”, by Frida Kahlo (1938), or “Mujeres”, by also Mexican Rufino Tamayo (1930).
However, this treasure does not start or end there. The works also date back to the 19th century, such as the landscapes of the imposing volcanoes of the Valley of Mexico, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, by the painter José María Velasco.
“It is undoubtedly one of the most important collections to be able to recreate the history of painting in Mexico,” says Angélica Velázquez, director of the Institute of Aesthetic Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and who also participated in the curatorship of the site.
“The axis of all their work as collectors has been Mexican art,” he says. “I would find it very difficult for the next owners to be insensitive to the value of the collection for the country.”
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