Art, Art Museums, Auction Sales

Britain Struggles to Keep its Art at Home

Following the recent budget-busting acquisition of Titian‘s Diana and Callisto, Britain now faces the possibility of losing two further masterpieces to foreign buyers:  Edouard Manet‘s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus and Picasso’s Child with a Dove.

Two major British art galleries raised 45 million pounds ($72 million) to buy the Titian masterpiece that had been in the U.K. for 200 years and keep it on public display — a purchase touted as a substantial cultural victory in tough economic times. National Gallery Director Nicholas Penny said the purchase had used up most of the gallery’s 32 million pound reserve fund, accumulated from a century of bequests. “It’s true we’ve depleted our resources very considerably by the acquisition,” he said. “But if we hadn’t taken this opportunity I think we would diminish our chances of further bequests in the future. “I know some people might think, why not buy 10 lesser things, but I think the National Gallery was founded primarily as a collection of great masterpieces.” The purchase means the painting will be reunited with its companion piece, Diana and Actaeon, which the two galleries bought for 50 million pounds in 2009. The prices, agreed with owner, the Duke of Sutherland, are only about a third of what the paintings have been estimated to be worth on the open market. Robert Korzinek, a fine art underwriter at insurer Hiscox, said the paintings are among a select group of artworks whose market value is potentially sky-high. “These incredibly rare pictures so infrequently come to market, and when they do, there are oil-rich nations that are seeking to put masterpieces on the walls of their museums, and they have infinite buying power,” he said. “It has totally reset prices.”

The Manet

Dr Christopher Brown CBE, Director of the Ashmolean, said of the Manet, “This is one of the most important pictures of the 19th century…The £7.83 million, though a substantial sum to be found, is a mere fraction of the picture’s actual worth and it would therefore be an enormous disappointment if it could not be saved for the nation.

“Its purchase would, at a stroke, transform the Ashmolean’s representation of Impressionist painting.”

The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology already owns and exhibits 19th century works, including paintings by Pissarro, sculpture by Degas and a drawing of Manet’s famous work ‘Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe’.

Manet is considered to be one of the most important painters of the 19th century, and many art historians believe him to have been the first innovator behind the Modernist movement. Only a handful of his works reside in UK collections.

The decision, which provides a last chance to raise the money needed to keep the picture in the country, comes after a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest.

Committee member Lowell Libson said: ”Manet, one of the most important painters of the 19th century, had a profound influence on the development of Impressionism and this painting demonstrates his ability to innovate while working with a framework of historical reference and allusion.  More Information:[/url]

The Picasso

An early Picasso painting, which has been publicly displayed in Britain since 1974, is to be sold at Christie’s if no public museum or gallery comes forward and bids on it in the next three months. Though it has become a national treasure, the painting is privately owned by the aristocratic Aberconway family of Wales, which has announced its intention to sell off the work, estimated to be worth a staggering £50 million ($79 million).

Analysts believe that the chances of a UK institution raising the cash to purchase the piece are slim. The logical choice to purchase the work for the country would be the National Gallery, which showed the work from 1974 to 2011 — but that institution’s “legacy reserves” were spent on the recent £45 million ($71 million) joint purchase of Titian’s “Diana and Callisto” with the National Galleries of Scotland, a masterpiece by the Venetian master that another aristocrat, the Duke of Sutherland, had threatened to sell off to the highest bidder if the nation couldn’t raise the cash to stop him.

“Child with a Dove” (1901) was painted by the Spaniard in Paris at the beginning of his “Blue Period,” when he was only 19. It pictures a small child holding a white bird to her chest, with a multi-colored ball lying at her feet. “This is a particularly iconic picture,” a representative of the Courtauld Gallery told ARTINFO UK. “It’s much loved, particularly because of the subject matter of a child with a dove, so it’s always been a very popular picture wherever it’s been on view. ”

The piece has been in the Aberconway family since 1928, when it was bequeathed to Lady of Aberconway Christabel McLaren by legendary British collector Samuel Courtauld. It is currently on show at Tate Britain’s “Picasso and Modern British Art” blockbuster exhibition. “It’s a really important work for us because it was owned by one of the greatest British collectors of modern art, and it was a really singular picture within his collection,” Tate’s Helen Little told ARTINFO UK.

Since the piece was publically shown, the current owner was exempt from inheritance tax when he first received the piece, but this tax would become payable if the work was to be sold privately. Under UK regulations, owners in this situation have to publish a notice of intention of sale via the Arts Council England’s Acquisitions, Exports, Loans and Collections Unit, and allow three months for national collections to decide whether they are in a position to acquire it.

The Courtauld Gallery would be a natural home for “Child with a Dove,” but the organization has no acquisition budget. “We are utterly dependent on people who gift, bequeath, or loan us paintings,” said the Courtauld Gallery representative. “We will not be setting up a fund to try and save it.”  Source:



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