Last week, the inauguration of the third exhibition of paintings “Femina Feminae”, including 29 paintings dedicated to woman’s beauty, took place in The Carmen Thyssen Museum in Andorra. The owner of the collection, Andorran resident, María del Carmen Rosario Soledad Cervera y Fernández de la Guerra, Dowager Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon et Impérfalva, popularly known as Carmen “Tita” Thyssen, was kind enough to have an interesting talk with all-andorra.com over a cup of coffee about the global art market, her huge unique collection, new museum in Girona and even about her own passion for painting.
Interview: Irina Rybalchenko
The co-prince of Andorra and Bishop of Urgell visited the museum during the inauguration for the first time ever. Next time, perhaps, can we expect to see the second co-prince, President of the French Republic, Francois Macron?
Of course! That would be great!
How many works of art are there in your collection at the moment?
My collection consists of about one thousand four hundred paintings as well as some sculptures, but not so many – in total it’s about 10. I have four Rodin sculptures, very good ones – “The Eternal Springtime”, “The birth of Venus (The Aurore)”, “The Dream (The Angel’s Kiss)” and “The Death of Athens (Lamentation on the Acropolis)”; two Matisse (one of them is Small Crouching Nude with Arms) and some by Spanish sculptors.
What are the most valuable pieces of art?
Paintings. I have Paul Gauguin’s paintings. The most valuable of them is Mata Mua – the translation is like “Once upon a time” (just like how some children’s fairy tales begin). It’s estimated to be worth about 400 million US dollars.
Another one was painted in Martinique, and is titled “Coming and going” – now it’s in an exhibition in Amsterdam. He painted very few paintings in Martinique. Therefore, they are more valuable than those that were painted in France.
“Coming and going” has been already in Andorra at the previous exhibition. It is possible to see Mata Mua here?
Yes, next year or maybe in 2 years we will create an exhibition including this painting.
Is it possible to calculate how much the whole collection is currently estimated to be worth?
It’s about 2 billion dollars.
What are the recent acquisitions in the collections?
There is pastel painting by Santiago Rusiñol, a Catalan painter. This technique was very developed by French painters like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, for example. Santiago Rusiñol went to Paris to understand more about this pastel technique. He has just a few paintings done in this style. It was a big surprise for me: nobody bet on it in the auction house in Madrid! So I was very lucky. It’s really very unique.
Also, I bought some paintings by the Spanish pop artist Antonio de Philippe. He painted my portrait many years ago, I loved it and I bought it. That’s how I know him. Also, he has a very beautiful painting of Marilyn Monroe. The heels of her shoes… They are guns!
How do you normally acquire paintings – directly or via auctions?
Who are your favorite artists or painters?
I love all of them! When you collect you cannot say: “This one is the best one”. I would be a strange collector if I collect ones that I don’t love. It is the same as what my husband, Baron Thyssen, said: “I am falling in love with all the paintings I have”. It’s a special feeling – to be able to love paintings…
Every year I receive sales catalogues from all around the world – there are a lot of auctions. And I look at all of them – not only to buy, but also to know what is going on in the world of art. I find out the prices, so I know what is the current market situation.
What are the most expensive works of arts in the world and who are the owners?
There is Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci. On a historic night in 2017 at Christie’s in New York, Salvator Mundi, a depiction of Christ as “Saviour of the World” by one of history’s greatest and most renowned artists, sold for $450,312,500, becoming the most expensive painting ever sold at auction! The owner is a sheikh from Saudi Arabia.
A Chinese taxi driver turned billionaire art collector, Liu Yiqian, has paid a record-breaking $170 million for a painting of a nude woman by Amedeo Modigliani in New York.
It was a funny story. The same buyer acquired a second painting from Modigliani where appears the same woman (a very elegant one) as the first painting sold but painted from backsides. So the Chinese owner has the same woman painted by the artist Amedeo Modigliani from both sides.
I wish I had the money to buy it!
Then, a painting from Monet was sold for around $80 million. It was one of a serial of paintings from a same scenario in different times and lights of the day.
What is your favorite style?
Impressionism. But I like PopArt too.
Do you normally buy or sell as well?
No, I don’t sell. Collectors don’t sell. Honestly, sometimes I would like to sell one or two paintings. Or maybe exchange them with other collectors. But no, not yet.
Which factor makes your collection so special?
I am not an investor. Investors buy the names, collectors buy the paintings. I buy paintings. But I have a lot of names as well.
Which modern artists would you call the most prospective in the art market?
There are several young painters like Alec Monopoly or Emmanuelle Ribojad. In Spain I love the work of Antonio de Felipe who is doing great things in PopArt.
Andorra is a country with low taxation rates. How promising would it be to open an auction house to sell works of art?
It could be a good idea. I have never thought about it. I could recommend your idea to auction houses.
The world of art collectors is special. Who are the main players in the art market world now?
I know a very important Spanish collector, Esther Koplowitz, Marquise of Cuba. Recently there were collectors from China, Russia, and the UK. There are also some collectors among the Arab sheikhs. I also know Liu Yiqan, Steve Winn, Larry Ellison…
I know some personal collectors. Some of them are from Russia. With my husband, I travelled to Russia several times – to Moscow, to Saint Petersburg and even to Siberia. We exchanged art between Hermitage, Pushkin museum and our museum in Madrid. For the first time in the history of Russia, about 40 paintings of impressionists (20 from Hermitage and 20 from Pushkin) left the country. They were fantastic paintings (including 6 of Gauguin’s) – thousands of people from all over the world came to see them! And we sent our collection to temporary exhibitions in Russia several times too.
I have very beautiful memories of Russia! It’s a very beautiful country… And maybe I’ll go back to Russia with a big exhibition. I would like to continue this exchange of art with our museums in Madrid, in Malaga and even in Andorra. I know the main collectors of both the museums and I could initiate it.
What determines the value of a work of art?
The public and the collectors are the ones who form the prices.
Is there something permanent in the world that you believe in?
I believe in books, music and art.
You have a project to open a 4th museum in Girona. Could you please tell us more details about this project?
It will be an exhibition of Catalan paintings – I have a huge collection of Catalan paintings from XVIII-XX. It will be situated in Porta Ferrada old Monastery, in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Girona, Costa Brava, where I have another residence. We have been organizing temporary exhibitions there for the past 7 years. The art director of the museum probably will be Guillermo Cervera, the art director of the Thyssen museum in Andorra.
How are your museums financed?
I never touch finances and I don’t tell anyone about them. What I do is for free. The government are the ones who are in charge of all financial questions. Because I think this is a question of the image of a country.
And I have a status of vice-president of the museums in Madrid and Andorra and president of the museum in Malaga.
Carmen Thyssen’s Andorran Museum launched the “GASTROART AL THYSSEN” a label under which the museum proposes “sensitive activities”. You have also opened an art-school here. Is it for everybody?
We focus on kids, but it’s open for everybody. Everybody can be closed to art. Our target is to spread art without limits.
Art is something that stands the test of time. I believe in museums. They keep paintings in perfect condition. Thanks to museums we can see how our world has been changing – what people looked like, what they eat, dress etc. It’s amazing! This is the best way to explain our history. That’s why I transfer my collections to museums.
And you personally, have you ever tried painting?
Yes, and I love it very much. What happens when a painter is in front of an empty canvas? I was curious about this and so I decided to try.
And what happened?
Our imagination begins to work. Then we get involved… But unfortunately, I don’t have time for painting. I have about 20 paintings.
Could I please see them?
I am very shy. But ok, I’ll show you one.
How much time do you normally spend in Andorra?
I spend a lot of time here. My girls go to school in Andorra – a very good one. I like the Andorran educational system. Plus this is a very safe country. And people are so friendly. And I can relax here.