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Art dealer removes ʼGolgothaʼ from public view

The Hungarian-American art collector Imre Pakh has ordered a monumental painting by the Hungarian master Mihály Munkácsy on loan to a museum in Debrecen, eastern Hungary, to be veiled from public view pending a decision by the national heritage office on its removal, the Déri Museum told Hungarian news agency MTI yesterday. 

Pakh asked museum officials to drape a curtain in front of Munkácsyʼs "Golgotha" after failing to reach an agreement on its sale to the state of Hungary with funding from the central bank.

He told MTI last week that National Bank of Hungary (MNB) officials had "shown no degree of cooperation on reaching an agreement through negotiations". He said that Hungaryʼs recent move to list "Golgotha", effectively preventing its removal from the museum, violated Hungarian and international laws, adding that he would take the necessary legal steps.

The painting belongs to Munkácsyʼs famous "Christ Trilogy", all three of which hang in the Déri Museum. The state has owned "Ecce Homo!" for years and it recently acquired "Christ Before Pilate", another of the three, from Canadaʼs Art Gallery of Hamilton for $5.7 mln, with funding from the National Bank of Hungaryʼs (MNB) program to buy national art treasures.

MNB earlier indicated it was willing to pay $6 mln to acquire "Golgotha", but Pakh asked for $9 mln. Pakhʼs offer included the loan of all 52 Munkácsy paintings in his collection for a period of twelve years as well as pre-emption rights for the works.

In a statement published on its website late Monday, MNB said its deputy governor, Ferenc Gerhardt, who oversees the central bankʼs national art treasures program, had received a letter from Pakhʼs legal counsel on August 27. In the letter, Pakhʼs attorney said that the collector did not wish to sell the painting, taking into account the mandate of the central bank board that it did not allow for an offer exceeding the $6 mln, and considered the negotiations closed.