Apr 24, 2018

The sale of a Jacques-Louis David painting by a Quebec church has caused a brouhaha north of the border.

The fracas began when the National Gallery of Canada, in Ontario, announced it was selling a Marc Chagall painting in order to fund its acquisition of David’s Saint Jerome Hears the Trumpet of the Last Judgment (1779). The work is currently housed in a Quebec church, which has struggled with budgetary issues and has attempted to sell the piece since 2016, Bloomberg reported. But now two museums and the province’s culture minister Marie Montpetit have stepped in to keep the work in Quebec. Montpetit may “designate it as a heritage piece and develop a strategy to protect art of a religious nature in the province,” reported Bloomberg. Meanwhile, the Musee National Des Beaux-Arts in Quebec City and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts are partnering in an attempt to raise funds to buy the work. National Gallery of Canada director Marc Mayer isn’t perturbed. “If they’re able to raise the money and keep it in Quebec, then hats off, bravo,” he told Bloomberg. This is just the lastest in a series of deaccessioning controversies, but unlike most disputes, which usually ensnare a museum which is selling some cherished work from its collection, in this case the dispute centers on the work being acquired from a church. The National Gallery’s Chagall is already listed for auction at Christie’s, where it is expected to fetch between $6 million and $9 million. Should the purchase of the David fall apart, it is unclear what will happen with the funds.