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Texas Foundation to Sell Matisse Set 'The Backs'

By: Jamie Stengle, Associated Press
DALLAS (AP).- A Fort Worth foundation is selling four Henri Matisse sculptures known as "The Backs" that were once on display at a downtown park.

The large relief sculptures by Matisse that depict a woman's backside progressing from realistic to abstract were acquired by the Burnett Foundation in 1982 and later put on display at Fort Worth's Burnett Park. When the park was renovated in 2000, they were moved to Fort Worth's Kimbell Art Museum.

Neils Agather, executive director of the foundation, said the value of the sculptures now far exceeds anything that could justify owning them. He said the main mission of the foundation, which focuses on supporting health, education, human services and arts initiatives, mostly in the Fort Worth area, is to support community activities, not own art.

A "Back IV" sold at auction at Christie's in November for more than $48 million.

"They've just gotten to a value now that it doesn't fit the mission anymore," Agather said Tuesday.

Matisse, who died in 1954, created a series of four plaster casts for "The Backs," numbered I through IV. Twelve bronze casts were made from each plaster original. Several major museums have sets.

Sotheby's is organizing a private sale for the Burnett Foundation's set.

Sotheby's spokeswoman Diana Phillips said Tuesday that the auction house would not comment on the estimated value or disclose the eventual sale price of the foundation's sculptures, because the sale is private. She did say, though, that "there is an enormous interest and appetite for great sculptural works and recent prices will naturally be a guide."

Agather said that whether the foundation discloses the sale price will depend on the buyer and whether they wish to release any information.

For the Kimbell's stewardship of "The Backs" over the past 10 years, the foundation said it will give them Henry Moore's "Figure in Shelter" and Fernand Leger's "La Fleur qui Marche." Both have been on loan to the Fort Worth museum for the past 21 years.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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