Czech government team sent to recover lost art treasures at Christie’s auction

Art lovers have good reason to visit Amsterdam next week. On Tuesday, the Dutch branch of Christies auction house will be putting some very interesting artefacts under the hammer – approximately 400 items from the famous Liechtenstein art collection, one of the largest private art collections in the world. Some of these items once graced a number of Liechtenstein chateaux in the Czech lands and their administrators are now holding their breath: a team of Czech civil servants is heading for Amsterdam to try and buy some of them back.

To put it simply the Liechtenstein family is doing a bit of spring cleaning. As Prince Hans Adam II says in the introduction to the art catalogue collecting is a tradition in the family. And after four centuries of collecting even the biggest premises can get slightly overcrowded. In the last decade alone the new generation of Liechtensteins, who have a passion for modern art, have bought more than 500 works. The planned auction is a way of “cleaning up” up the collection and gaining more room. For the Valtice and Lednice chateaux and Sternberg castle it is a unique opportunity to recover long-lost treasures, things that Hans Adam’s father removed to Vaduz before the end of WWII. Had he left them in the Protectorate the government would have seized them along with other property of the Liechtenstein’s.

Valtice, photo: CTK
The Czech government is now trying to recover some of these art treasures for the mentioned chateaux. It bought fourteen paintings from the Liechtenstein collection in an auction five years ago. Then the bidding team had two million crowns to spend, now it has been given ten (622,000 US dollars). A list of the items up for sale has already been released, and in many cases art historians know exactly where they were originally placed at Lednice or Valtice chateau. The money will not allow them to get back everything they would like but they have stated their priorities. The Czech bidding team will try to recover what it can –but is naturally keeping its own list under wraps so as not to tip off rival bidders.