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HN: Czech Museum cannot buy unique items abroad ad hoc

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Prague, Jan 6 (CTK) – The National Museum (NM) in Prague does not have quickly available finances for urgent cases to be able to purchase valuable heritage items at foreign auctions, for instance, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes yesterday.
Most recently, it missed a chance of buying a unique manuscript of Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) that was auctioned off for an equivalent of over 7.5 million crowns, including the auction´s surcharge, at Sotheby´s in London in December.
The Czech Music Museum, the NM´s branch, wanted to acquire the four sheets with the probably first handwritten score of one of Dvorak´s most famous chamber composition, the Dumky piano trio, from November 26, 1890, which Sotheby´s experts called “the most significant handwritten score by Dvorak that has ever appeared at auction.”
However, the museum employees did not manage to complete all administrative formalities to ask the Culture Ministry for funding the purchase in time. This is why the valuable score ended up abroad, HN writes.
“Without an operational financial fund and methodology enabling to flexibly react to auction offers, we will always be at a big disadvantage compared to other customers,” NM general director Milan Lukes told the paper.
In the Czech Republic, museums cannot yet rely on rich patrons who would buy valuable items and donate them to state collections, HN adds.
It also writes that handwritten scores by Dvorak, which would reveal something new about his work, appear on the market only rarely.
Twenty years ago, the National Museum bought a part of the handwritten score of Dvorak´s Biblical Songs at a foreign auction for an equivalent of some 600,000 crowns, which was twice higher sum than the starting price, HN writes.
The handwritten score of Dumky has become the most expensive work by Dvorak sold at auction in the world and the third most expensive one at Sotheby´s, HN says.
Lukes points out that the current acquisition procedure is so complicated that the NM had eventually only four days to file an application for the financial coverage of the purchase before the auction in London took place. An expert opinion estimated the final price at some seven million crowns, HN says.
“The National Museum did not have the money available and it was too late for negotiations with the Culture Ministry. I do not know either whether the ministry has such financial means,” Lukes told HN.
He considers it a serious problem that no simplified rules exist for the acquisition of valuable artifacts at auctions. Moreover, it is almost sure that the NM would have to rely on the world market to extend its collections in the future, Lukes said.
Similar valuable items, such as Dvorak´s manuscript, appeared on the Czech market last time in the mid-1990s, and with some exceptions they were sold abroad, HN adds.
The Prague Music Museum, which preserves Dvorak´s legacy and owns about 95 percent of his handwritten scores, has now the only possibility to ask the new owner through Sotheby´s, since ist clients traditionally remain anonymous, for a copy for studies at least and hope that they will show an accommodating approach, HN writes.
($1=25.145 crowns)

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