VIENNA (AFP).- An Austrian businessman offered Monday to sell his renowned 7,000-work contemporary art collection to the state for 86 million euros ($118.5 million) to save his stricken international home improvement chain.
"My wife and I are ready to hand over the entire collection to the republic if that can help us save around 4,000 jobs in Austria alone," said the businessman, Karlheinz Essl.
The main focus of the collection, on display in Klosterneuburg north of Vienna, is on Austrian artists since 1945 including Maria Lassnig and Valie Export but it also includes works by international figures.
Art expert Otto Hans Ressler told the Austria Press Agency said that a sale of the works on the open market would lead to an "oversupply" and a "dramatic fall in the value of Austrian art".
Essl's bauMax chain of 158 do-it-yourself outlets is active in nine countries, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Turkey, employing some 10,000 people. In 2012 it posted a loss of 126 million euros.
A spokesman for Austria's culture ministry said it was "extremely important" to save the jobs, saying that minister Josef Ostermayer was "well known for finding solutions".
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