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Portugal formally scraps sale of its Miro collection

Portugal’s Socialist government has formally put an end to an unpopular scheme to auction off 85 state-owned works by famed Spanish artist Joan Miro, the finance ministry said Monday.

It announced a final agreement with the London auctioneers Christie’s for cancelling the sale, ending a political and judicial row which had dragged on for three years.

The cancellation “did not entail any compensation payment,” the ministry said in its statement.

The paintings, drawings, tapestries and sculptures, dating from 1924 to 1981, are estimated to be worth around 35 million euros ($39 million).

They came under state ownership in 2008 when the government nationalised the failed BPN bank which had built up the collection.

Six years later, the then centre-right government put the works up for sale to raise cash for the depleted national coffers.

But they were withdrawn after an outcry and a legal challenge from political opponents and activists.

Centre-left Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced last September that the government would keep the works in the northern city of Porto.

They were put on display last October by the Serralves art foundation. By the end of January, the exhibition “Joan Miro, Materiality and Metamorphosis” had notched up 100,000 visitors. It runs until June 4.