France told to sell Mona Lisa to offset coronavirus economic crisis

The Mona Lisa is considered the archetypal masterpiece of the Renaissance and France should “sell the family jewellery” for at least €50 billion ($A83 billion), a leading French businessmen has suggested.

Stephane Distinguin, founder and CEO of the international tech company, Fabernovel, made the proposal as a solution to help offset its losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The price has to be insane for the operation to make sense,” Mr Distinguin said in an interview with French magazine, Usbek & Rica.

“I estimate that it would take no less than €50 billion to acquire the Mona Lisa.

“I was told that my estimate was very overvalued, even far-fetched, but each time without real arguments.”

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He said for the richest man in the world, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, that amounts to just a third of his fortune.

“Barely more than the amount paid to his wife in connection with his recent divorce. Why not rename our work ‘Mona Lisa del Giocondo-Bezos’?”

The 46-year-old said he was aware “these billions are not invented and that they will necessarily cost us”.

“An obvious reflex is to sell off a valuable asset at the highest price possible, but one that is the least critical as possible to our future,” he said.

“Day after day we list the billions engulfed in this slump like children counting the fall of a stone into a well to measure its depth. We are still counting, and this crisis seems unfathomable.”

France, along with several other European countries, has been forced to temporarily freeze large parts of its economy to limit the spread of the virus.

The country has been hard hit by COVID-19 and has been on strict lockdown since March 17, with most outside activity strictly forbidden.

“The economic recovery will be long, difficult and costly,” France’s economy minister Bruno Le Maire said on April 9.

There’s been almost 4.9 million confirmed cases globally and 323,000 deaths.

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As it stands, France’s GDP is expected to drop by 6 per cent in 2020,with most economists agreeing it is set for its biggest economic downturn since 1945, The Localreports,

“There’s an overall consensus among economists that the recession will be worse than in 2008,” said Anne-Laure Delatte, an economist who works as a researcher at the French institutes CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) and CEPII (Centre d’études prospectives et d’informations internationales).

In his interview, Mr Distinguin said that France has a lot of paintings and this year in particular it was important to be able to access financial assistance to help the economy.

“We have to get the money where it is. So sell family jewellery,” he said.

“A painting is easy to move and therefore to hand over.”

The business leader also suggested the famous Leonardo da Vinci artworkcould be “tokenised” with a form of cryptocurrency allowing the painting to be easily exchanged between nations.

“It would be like a big global subscription,” he said. “Legally and technically, this solution would have many advantages – it would allow France and the Louvre to keep control of the painting.”

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