International Journal of Cultural Property

History for Sale: The International Art Market and the Nation State

Venus  Bivar  a1
a1 Department of History, The University of Chicago. Email:

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In April of 2003 the collection of André Breton, one of the founders of Surrealism, was auctioned off at the Hôtel Druout in Paris. This article focuses on how the sale sparked a heated debate about the French state's role as the protector of French cultural patrimony and looks at the different interests involved, from Breton's daughter, who authorised the sale, to the Minister of Culture. Ultimately, the author argues that the state allowed the sale to occur, despite popular protest, in order to improve France's position in the global art market.