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Getty Defends Purchase

April 20, 1985|WILLIAM WILSON | Times Art Critic

The J. Paul Getty Museum has vehemently denied a charge that it welshed on a promise not to bid on a rare painting by Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna acquired Thursday in London for a record $10.5 million. The painting, "The Adoration of the Magi" was sold by the Marquess of Northampton.

According to a United Press International report Friday, Timothy Clifford, director of Scotland's National Gallery, said, "The Getty in the past has said it would not go for a British-owned picture if a museum or gallery here wanted it. I told John Walsh, director of the Getty, that the National Gallery of Scotland wanted the Mantegna. They knew I wanted it and yet they bid."

Walsh, replying through a spokesperson Friday, said, "I consulted with Dr. Clifford four days before the sale. He told me he had attempted to negotiate a private sale with the owner but had been unsuccessful and although he wished he had the funds to buy the picture at auction for Scotland's National Gallery, he would not be bidding. We, therefore, felt free to participate in the auction."

Clifford, according to UPI, said he plans to launch a public appeal for money to keep the painting in Britain. Last year, when Clifford headed the Manchester Gallery, he spearheaded a successful campaign to raise about $2 million to retain a painting by Duccio that the Getty had purchased in England.

British law permits a waiting period before an export license is issued on a work of art to allow time for funds to be raised to retain England's dwindling art treasures.

Clifford's challenge raises the possibility of the Getty losing a major painting, but the prospect is minimized by the huge sum that would have to be raised.

"We understand how the British system works," Walsh said. "We think it is fair and will abide by whatever the results may be."

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