Belgian Art Foundation Buys $6 M. T. Rex Skeleton

A Belgian arts foundation bought a 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton at the Koller Auction house in Zurich last week for $6 million. The skeleton sold alongside a Soviet space suit, two plaster face masks used in the film The Exorcist, and a variety of natural wonders.

“We are very proud to announce ourselves as the new owners of this incredible specimen which has quickly become one of the most memorable additions to The Phoebus Foundation collection,” the Foundation announced in an Instagram post over the weekend.

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The foundation’s eclectic collection also includes lace, colonial art from Latin America, maps, a large amount of items from the CoBrA art movement, and over 500 manuscripts that mention the mythical figure Reynaert the Fox.

The T. rex skeleton, which goes by the name of Trinity, is the first-ever object of its kind to have been auctioned in Europe. It is composed of 50 percent original bone, and the missing fragments are composed of three other T. rex specimens found in Montana and Wyoming. The skeleton measures 38 feet in length and stands nearly 13 feet tall.

Tens of thousands of people flocked to the auction house to view Trinity in the two and a half weeks that the skeleton was on display ahead of the auction.

Only the third complete T. rex skeleton to go to auction, Trinity failed to measure up to previous sales. In 1997, a T. rex skeleton called Sue sold for $8.4 million in a Sotheby’s auction to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. A skeleton by the name of Stan sold for $31.8 million in 2020 to the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi, which will be completed in 2025. Just last year, another major T-Rex skeleton under the name of Shen was supposed to be auctioned by Christie’s with an estimate of $15-$20 million. However, the sale was canceled when it was discovered that Shen’s head was a cast of Stan’s head, leading to intellectual property complications.

Though the sold complete T. rex skeletons have been or will be made available to the public, some paleontologists believe that dinosaur skeletons shouldn’t be sold to prevent them from being placed in private collections, outside the reach of researchers. However, the Phoebus Foundation has promised that, like the other works in their collection, researchers will have access to the skeleton.

Similarly, Trinity the T. rex is destined for a space that is not yet completed. The Phoebus Foundation is currently in the process of restoring the Boerentoren, the first-ever skyscraper to be built in Europe. The foundation’s new home in Antwerp will be completed in a few years time. In the meantime, the foundation is considering options for an institution that can display the T. rex until construction has finished.


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