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Friday, 8 March, 2002, 09:46 GMT
Costly Rembrandt awaits auction
Maastricht hosts one of the world's largest art fairs
Maastricht hosts one of the world's largest art fairs
The most valuable Rembrandt painting ever likely to reach the market is on sale at the Maastricht art fair for an estimated $40m (28m).

The work is a 4ft high painting of Minerva, the goddess of war and wisdom, and was painted by the Dutch master in 1635.

The painting of Minerva, which has undergone a year of careful restoration work, was once owned by the Swedish inventor of the Electrolux vacuum cleaner and then by Baron Bich, the Bic ballpoint pen magnate.

New York art dealer Otto Naumann bought the painting for 20m last year.

Higher premiums

It is being shown alongside some 80% of the world's old masters at the fair in the Netherlands, amid unprecedented security.

More than 200 dealers from 13 countries have been invited to the Dutch town for the fair, which ends on 17 March.

Art has always been a target for theft, but the 11 September attacks on the US have only increased fears - and insurance premiums - for dealers at the fair.

John Sims, of Chubb Insurance, told BBC's Breakfast programme: "The reinsurance market, where insurance companies buy coverage for themselves, prices have gone up anything from 20% to 2,000%."

These extra costs are passed onto art dealers.

"They can probably expect to paying half as much again next year, in some cases double," said Mr Chubb.

The fair has also been hit by a row over European Union legislation.

A new Fine Arts industry report suggests a Europe-wide tax on imported artworks has driven as much as 7% of the art market to the US.

'Profit margins'

London art dealer Johnny Van Haeften has warned the system has had a serious effect on UK dealers.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday: "The EU has shot itself in the foot.

"At the moment VAT is levied on the profit margins on all works of art.

"If the market was free, they would be much more art circulating. The EU thought by introducing an import VAT they would get more money but the opposite is the case."

But the dispute is unlikely to affect the sale of the Rembrandt.

See also:

07 Jun 01 | Arts
In pictures: Venice Biennale
04 Feb 99 | e-cyclopedia
Neurotic realism: Come again?
20 Jun 01 | Arts
Artist's champion dies
09 May 00 | UK
Modern times for the Tate
13 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Rembrandt fetches 19.8m
23 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Shock art hits London
23 Mar 00 | UK
Artists unveil Tate Britain
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