ART MARKET / Suffering for his art

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The Independent Culture
VICTOR MAGIDS, executive director of the Renaissance Trust, was beaten up when robbers broke into his flat two years ago. Then, bound and gagged, he watched them select which of his Old Master paintings they would take.

Luckily the paintings had been photographed for an exhibition catalogue only a few days before, so he had documents to prove his ownership. A group of paintings were recognised when they were brought into Sotheby's in London and another batch was found by the German police in Stuttgart. Mr Magids, however, has not yet got any of the pictures back and doesn't know if he will. The Ministry of the Interior has currently taken possession of the paintings, pending the trial of the thieves.

Mr Magids explained why he had filled his house with Old Masters. 'It was not only for the love of it that I started to set up a collection. It meant that when I came into my house, I entered a different world from the one outside. It was a way to mentally emigrate - to escape outside life.'

Life for collectors was tough under communist rule. 'In the old days the word 'collector' was synonymous with criminal or culprit in the eyes of the state,' he said. 'Their prejudice was not based on moral values. They were worried that an individual could achieve independence through the financial power that a collection implied.'

(Photographs omitted)