The Albertina Museum of contemporary art in Vienna recently announced that it has received a gift of 1,323 works from the Essl Collection. The haul includes work by Cindy Sherman, Tony Cragg, Karel Appel, Georg Baselitz, Alex Katz, Maria Lassnig, Nam June Paik, and Neo Rauch, and has been appraised to be worth around €90 million ($103.2 million.) The collection was assembled by Karlheinz Essl, the founder of the Austrian retail chain bauMax, and his wife, Agnes, as they began to collect contemporary art in the 1980s.
In a statement, the German cultural minister Gernot Blümel said:
We view the Essl Collection as an important collection of Austrian and international art, for which reason it would be extremely unfortunate if it were no longer accessible to the public. I am therefore very happy that, with its donation to the Albertina Museum, we have been able to agree upon a solution for the Essl Collection’s long-term preservation.
In 2014, Essl, in the midst of financial peril as his company struggled to stay solvent, reached a deal with the industrialist Hans Peter Haselsteiner to sell 60 percent of the collection to him for €115 million ($151 million). As part of the Essl deal with the Albertina, Haselsteiner will loan his portion of the collection to the museum for at least 27 years, and give €40 million ($45.9 million) to pay for renovations to the Künstlerhaus, where the Albertina will open another location in 2019.