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As Citibanamex Splits, Fate of Art Collection Causes Stir in Mexico

After the Citibanamex Bank announced its split earlier this month, the fate of its prestigious art collection has caused a stir in Mexico.

The Citibanamex Bank is a coalition of the National Bank of Mexico and Citigroup since 2001. Earlier in January, Citigroup announced that it would be ending its consumer banking in Mexico, effectively ending Citibanamex. While the sale of the bank is still in its early stages, questions have arisen about the fate of its vast and prestigious art collection.

Over the years, the Citibanamex has acquired a number of prominent artworks through its cultural arm. It boasts of more than 2000 artworks, from the 18th century to the present. Most of the artworks are based on Mexican history, culture and social issues. Famous Mexican artists in the collection include Friday Kahlo and Diego Rivera. It also features foreign artists who have lived in Mexico for a long time, like Remedios Vari and Daniel Thomas Egerton.

This week, Alberto Gómez Alcalá (Corporate director, Citibanamex) had said the bank had not assigned a fixed value to the collection and is looking for buyers who would commit to preserving the cultural property of the bank. Earlier Citibanamex had clarified that they would not be selling individual works; instead, whatever organisation buys the bank would get ownership of the collection.

However, this clause has caused concern that the art collection might be handed over to an organisation outside Mexico. Andres Obrador, President of Mexico, has strongly emphasized that the collection must remain within the country. Marcelo Ebrard (Foreign Secretary, Mexico) tweeted that the art collection should be made national property.

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The reaction of the Mexican government was not unexpected, given their recent endeavours to stop the sales of cultural objects and works outside the country. A few months ago, the Mexican government was able to stop the auction of a Mexican cultural artefact in Rome. But given the completely private nature of the bank and its collection, it would be interesting to see what the government could do in this situation.