Former social democrat leader and Prime Minister Victor Ponta apparently decided that the Romanian Government would buy the famous sculpture Cumintenia Pamantului (The Wisdom of the Earth) by Constantin Brancusi from its current owners while technocrat Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos just finalized the negotiation, according to Bogdan Grabowski, the lawyer representing the sculpture’s owners.
The sculpture, which the Ciolos cabinet attempted to buy last year with a mix of public funds and money raised through a public subscription campaign, turned into a political issue during last fall’s electoral campaign. PSD and its allies attacked Ciolos’s technocrat Government on the decision to buy the sculpture for EUR 11 million and the way it handled this matter.
Grabowski told local news agency News.ro that Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), should talk to former PM Victor Ponta about the sculpture as the latter decided on exercising the preemption right.
The lawyer’s statements come after Dragnea, who is the president of the Chamber of Deputies and the man who controls the most important decisions made by the current Government, said a day earlier that if someone “had looked properly”, all the documents showing that it is already the property of the Romanian state would have been found.
Bogdan Grabowski contradicts Dragnea and says that there are no documents to show that the statue is the state’s property. “Unfortunately, there is a lot of demagogy. The process to recover The Wisdom of the Earth took place between 2001 and 2010. In 2001, the culture minister was Razvan Theodorescu, representing the PSD. They could have looked it up. Starting with 2004, it was Ms. Mona Musca, representing the [Democrat Liberal Party] PDL, then, starting 2005, Adrian Iorgulescu, from the [National Liberal Party] PNL. Theodor Paleologu, PDL, and Kelemen Hunor, from [The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania] UDMR followed. They all could have looked. The Culture Ministry and the National Museum of Art of Romania were part of the process. None of these institutions were able to find a document,” Grabowski told News.ro.
Dragnea said that the sculpture needs to be recovered, but through a “legal and transparent” procedure. He also said he does not encourage the current Government to buy the Brancusi sculpture.
Grabowski also told News.ro that, as far as transparency was concerned, the negotiating committee representing the Ponta cabinet, which started the negotiations for buying the statue, at the time wanted to sign a confidentiality agreement, which the sculpture’s owners turned down.
“The state was notified in November 2014, during the Ponta government. He decided on exerting the preemption right. Mr. Dragnea says there was no transparency. He should talk to Mr. Ponta. The members of the commission at the time wanted to sign a confidentiality agreement related to the negotiations. We didn’t sign, but they did,” the lawyer said.
The negotiations with the Victor Ponta government were carried out between 2014 and 2015. The current culture minister Ionut Vulpescu was serving on the same position at the time. “The negotiations with the Ciolos government were carried out in accordance with the law. We discussed only the price with them. The law says the sum can be negotiated,” the lawyer also said. At the same time, Grabowski pointed out that the entire Culture Commission of the Chamber of Deputies agreed in September 2016 that the state pay the entire price for the Wisdom of the Earth sculpture, “including Mr. Vulpescu, who was part of the commission,” the lawyer said.
At the beginning of last year, the government led by Dacian Ciolos agreed to pay EUR 11 million for the sculpture, but only allotted EUR 5 million for the acquisition and hoped to raise the remaining EUR 6 million via a public fundraising campaign. The campaign, which went through from April to end-September, only raised some EUR 1.2 million.
In October of last year the government decided to come up with a bill granting an additional amount from the state budget to reach the EUR 11 million needed for buying the Brancusi sculpture. The Ciolos government asked the Parliament to approve the acquisition, but this didn’t happen. Further reports from commissions within the Chamber of Deputies are expected on the issue.
The PSD strongly criticized the Ciolos cabinet for the “Cumintenia Pamantului” campaign.