COST OF CULTURE

Ateneo de Madrid forced to sell off Goyas after grant cuts

Regional government moves to freeze auction of masterworks by 200-year-old cultural institution

The once-prestigious Ateneo de Madrid cultural institution is planning to sell off some of the jewels of its art collection, including two sets of Goya etchings, to help resolve the difficult economic straits in which it finds itself.

In total the Madrid organization, founded in 1835, wants to auction off nine of its works on February 21, as well as six pieces donated by contemporary artists, including acclaimed Spanish realist painter and sculptor Antonio López, who have come to the institution's aid. The Madrid regional government immediately moved to freeze the sale.

The two Goya series are a second edition of Los Caprichos, a set of 80 aquatints first published in 1799, and a first edition of Los desastres de la guerra, made between 1812 and 1815. The works, discovered in 2005 after the Ateneo carried out an inventory, will have starting prices of 55,000 and 85,000 euros, respectively. In a statement, the Ateneo said the move had been prompted by a drastic reduction in the public subsidies it received for this year.

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