Collector blasts MNB for lack of cooperation, removes painting

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Hungarian-born American art collector Imre Pakh told MTI yesterday that he had decided to remove "Golgotha", a monumental painting by Mihály Munkácsy, from the Déri Museum in Debrecen, eastern Hungary, after failing to reach an agreement with the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) on its sale, Hungarian news agency MTI reported.

Golgotha, by Munkácsy

Pakh had earlier threatened to remove the painting after talks on its sale to the state of Hungary – with funding from the central bank – had reached an impasse. However, he told MTI in June that "Golgotha" could remain in Debrecen until the end of summer.

Yesterday, Pakh told MTI that the "sad" decision to remove the painting had been made "because the representatives of the central bank have shown no degree of cooperation on reaching an agreement through negotiations".

He said Hungaryʼs move to list "Golgotha", effectively preventing its removal from the country, violated Hungarian and international laws, adding that he would take the necessary legal steps.

Déri Museum director János Angi confirmed that Pakh had called to inform the museum of his intention to remove the painting after failing to reach an agreement on its sale with the National Bank of Hungary. Angi said that he had instructed Pakh to put his intent in writing and attach a permit from the national office in charge of oversight of national art treasures allowing the paintingʼs removal.

"Without the permit, the painting cannot even be taken down from the wall of the exhibition room," Angi added.

The painting is from Munkácsyʼs famous "Christ Trilogy" and is currently on loan to the Déri Museum, where all three paintings are on display. 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 program to buy national art treasures.

The central bank 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.

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