The Romascu family, owners of a famous and highly coveted Romanian masterpiece, are looking to sell it, and the Romanian government is currently standing in their way. Constantin Brâncuși’s sculpture, “The Wisdom of the Earth,” is thought of as one of the country’s most significant works of the 20th century and is valued at approximately $22 million.
Brâncuși created the minimalist sculpture in 1907. Gheorghe Romascu then bought it directly from the artist in 1911. In 1957, the artwork was confiscated under Romania’s communist regime. It took 51 years and a controversial trial for the sculpture to be returned to the Romascu family. Although the Romascu’s own it, the work is currently displayed at the Cotroceni Art Museum in Bucharest, Romania.
Brâncuși is one of the most famous figures to emerge from Romanian history. Born in 1876, Brancusi attended art school in Romania before relocating to France and attending Écoledes Beaux-Arts. There, he met and befriended famous contemporaries of his, such as Auguste Rodin, Marcel Duchamp and Henri Matisse, among others. Although he eventually died as a French citizen, Romania remains the country that is associated with Brâncuși and his work.
After its successful return to the Romascu family in 2008, the sculpture remained in the country for the Romanian people to view. In September 2014, the artwork’s story took another dramatic turn when the owners announced that they intended to sell it. Because it is considered a national treasure, the Romanian government has a preemptive right to buy it. The only problem is that the government has neither confirmed nor denied its intent to purchase the masterpiece, and its silence on the matter has halted any other opportunity for the artwork to be purchased by another entity.
Given the magnitude of the Brâncuși and his work, the likelihood that “The Wisdom of the Earth” will remain in its native country is slim. There are many international art galleries, collectors and museums that are dying to acquire this sculpture. But is it really a bad thing for the sculpture to find a new home abroad? Obviously, there is a sense of ownership and nationalistic pride of Brâncuși and this sculpture in Romania. If the Romanian government, however, is not in a position to purchase it without causing harm to its citizens and economy, the sculpture should be sold internationally.
There is a greater chance that a more diverse audience will be exposed to this piece. Romania is a somewhat obscure travel destination, and an international gallery or museum is much more likely to put the sculpture somewhere more popular for international travelers. Furthermore there is virtually no possible way that the sculpture, due to its monetary value, will fall into irresponsible hands. This sculpture will be respected and treasured within the scope of the art world, regardless of where it is relocated.
The appreciation of art is most easily spread when it travels. It is then exposed to new and different audiences. It is time for the Romanian government to pass on the sale of Brâncuși’s sculpture and let another buyer come in to take responsibility for it. The sculpture will serve better as an integral member of the history of art than a token of Romanian pride.