What do you do with the francs, once you've sold them the wheat?
The Economist reviews a biography of 19th and early 20th Century art dealer Joseph Duveen, "Flogging culture to Americans" .
Here's what we apparently did with some of our francs:
- "THE half-century between the 1880s and the Wall Street crash of 1929 saw one of the most remarkable migrations of cultural artefacts. In unprecedented quantities, Old Master paintings, sculpture, furniture, silver, Chinese porcelain, altarpieces, books and manuscripts, medieval architecture, clocks and carpets were shipped from Europe to the United States.
This was not the booty of war, but rather a seismic shift in the world economy. In the late 19th century, European agricultural revenues collapsed as imported grain from America—and the discovery of oil there—caused steep falls in food prices. The land-rich families of the British and European aristocracy, who owned most of Europe's cultural treasures, faced mounting debts and even economic ruin. The new rich were Americans who marked their ascendancy with the trappings of fine art from the lands of their forefathers.
The Europeans sold; the Americans bought. The new collections formed the basis of the great American museum collections we know today. The scale of the enterprise, even early on, was something to be reckoned with. When John Pierpont Morgan died in 1913, his art collection was valued at $60m. These and similar collections would be worth billions today..."