Friday, November 10, 2006

Too Rich

Boy its been a long time since anyone called the CP a 'far left group'. And the Luxembourg in this story ain't no Rosa.

Communist Party chair nets £20m in painting sale

It couldn't have been a greater contrast: the comrades of the Communist Party of Britain were meeting on a wet Wednesday night in one of the grottier enclaves of east London, while in an auction room in Manhattan the world's leading art dealers were on a spending spree which broke world records. Few would have guessed the unlikely link between them. But Anita Halpin, the 62-year-old stalwart and chair of the far left group, was about to become a multimillionaire.

In the last few months, unbeknown to friends and colleagues, Ms Halpin has inherited one of the most important expressionist German paintings. Yesterday, it was sold for £20.5m.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's Berlin Street Scene, a vivid vision of the claustrophobic, anxiety-inducing ebb and flow of urban life in 1913, was bought from Ms Halpin by art consultant Daniella Luxembourg on behalf of the Neue Galerie, New York.

Ms Luxembourg told the Guardian: "It's one of Kirchner's best ever works. Without the restitution claim, the probability of such a work arriving on the market is absolutely zero. There is no other painting like this in the work of Kirchner - it's so rare. The quality and rarity of it are what justify the price. When you buy a work like this, you are buying a museum piece, part of the cultural heritage of a country."

For a communist, it may seem a galling sum for 200cm by 150cm of canvas. Worse still, perhaps, for a woman with Stalinist credentials. Her inheritance was sold in a frenzied session at Christie's in New York during which Russian tycoons and American millionaires bid well through the roof of estimated sale tags. At the end of the night, the total sale had achieved $491.4m (£258m), nearly doubling the previous record of $269m at Christie's in May 1990.

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