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Collectors in the shadows.

There is a perception that the UK 'has no serious collectors'. As Martin Bailey explains in this examination of British private collecting, that is partly because they are exceptionally discreet, As a result, it is often forgotten how much they contribute to the public realm of the arts, despite government reluctance to encourage a 'culture of philanthropy' on the American model.

If Britain's great private collectors have one thing in common in addition to their love of art, it is their preference for discretion. Their reasons range from modesty to understandable security concerns. Although there may he a Degas ill the dining room, owners usually keep rather quiet about it. Most major collectors are reluctant to reveal too much, so the names we tend to hear about represent only a small fraction of serious collectors active in Britain today.

Not surprisingly, the collectors who do get named in the press often come from the world of music and entertainment. Many pop stars are known to collect art. Three are worthy of special attention. David Bowie collects Old Masters such as Rubens and Tintoretto, as well as German Expressionists, Graham Sutherland and contemporary British work. Bryan Ferry, who trained as an artist, collects Victorian paintings, and likes Sickert above all. Sir Elton John owns over 400 vintage prints by twentieth century photographers, including Horst and Penn, as well as a wide ranging collection of nineteenth-century paintings and sculpture.

Madonna, a British citizen after marrying film director Guy Richie, reportedly owns around 300 twentieth-century works, including paintings by Lempicka, Picasso and Peter Howson. Her Kahlo self portrait appeared at Tate's 'Surrealism: Desire unbound' in 2001.

Since the professional lives of musicians and entertainers depend on keeping in the public eye, they often do not mind attention about their collecting. Sir Bob Geldof, for example, often turns up for gala openings of contemporary art fairs. Lord Lloyd Webber seems relaxed when journalists note his latest acquisition.

Collectors outside the world of entertainment and art tend to be considerably more reticent. Such major collectors as furniture retailer Lord Kirkham, property developer Christopher Moran or Syrian born financier Wafic Said do not advertise their collecting interests.

These are the new collectors, as opposed to aristocrats or members of other wealthy families who have inherited art. There are important differences between the approach of new collectors and their predecessors. Works of art are now bought and sold much more frequently. Even very wealthy collectors have less space. Dense hangs are out of fashion, and when it comes to fashionable interior decoration, minimalism tends to be the order of the day. Security concerns, and rising insurance costs, also make it unwise or too expensive--to have too much on display. Many works of art, notably early furniture, or paintings on panel, for example, present serious conservation issues. Increasingly, the really big collectors keep works in storage or lend them to public galleries.

The most important private collectors of today are mainly self made millionaires, or those who have inherited front one generation. Those whose wealth has been built up over numerous generations tend to play a rather different role. Britain is unusual among European nations in that it still has an aristocracy which holds enormous art collections, which usually hang in the long-established family country house. The majority of the major houses are open to the public. This continues a long tradition; it also helps raise money to pay maintenance hills and makes owners eligible to concessions from official bodies (such as English Heritage building grants and conditional exemption from inheritance tax on works of art).

Owners of country houses sometimes lend paintings to galleries; in one notable case, major masterpieces by Titian, Raphael and other artists have been on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland from the trustees of the Duke of Sutherland for over half a century. Usually, however, the owners of the great aristocratic collections see their public role as permitting access to their houses. Although many aristocrats do add to their collections, by, for example, commissioning new family portraits, most are no longer buying seriously. There are a few exceptions: the late Duke of Devonshire, who died last month, commissioned works by Freud and Frink for Chatsworth.

Private collectors and the public realm

Not surprisingly, most visitors to museums and galleries in the United Kingdom remain unaware of the extent to which wealthy art aficionados are major benefactors to public collections. This is partly because it is usually commercial sponsors who are most openly acknowledged, since they have a strong interest in having their names made prominent. Yet it is private donors, rather than companies, who give more generously. The latest statistics from the lobby group Arts & Business shows that individual benefactors provided 40 million [pounds sterling] last year for the visual arts, museums and galleries, compared with 28 million [pounds sterling] from corporate sponsors.

To take just one celebrated example, Sir Paul Getty, who died last year; gave a 50 million [pounds sterling] endowment to the National Gallery in 1985-87, mainly for acquisitions. He also donated to other institutions, including the National Gallery of Scotland, Tate Britain, Dulwich Picture Gallery and Hereford Cathedral (for the Mappa Mundi library). The American-born oil heir was a UK resident and eventually became a citizen. He settled on his estate at Wormsley Park, Buckinghamshire, where he formed the finest private library assembled in recent decades. Its long-term future has not yet been announced, but Sir Paul wished it to be kept together, and some degree of public access seems possible.

Although most philanthropic collectors support existing museums and galleries, a number have taken a more independent route, setting up their own institutions. In recent years these have included the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in Canonbury (1998), based on the bequest of Eric Estorick, and the Gilbert Collection of silver and gold, gold boxes and micro-mosaics set up by Sir Arthur Gilbert in Somerset House in 1999.

Help from the Treasury?

Private donors are already extremely generous, but still more could done to encourage philanthropy in Britain-a subject which was recently examined by the Goodison Review. This was commissioned by the Treasury, following the promise by the Chancellor in his 2003 Budget to investigate ways of helping Britain's museums and galleries. Entitled 'Securing the best for our museums: Private giving and government support', it was prepared by Sir Nicholas Goodison, former chairman of both the Stock Exchange and the National Art-Collections Fund. (He himself is a keen collector of contemporary craft and a donor to museums and galleries.)

The Goodison Review's most radical proposal is for new tax reliefs to encourage individuals to give works of art of pre-eminent importance to public collections during their lifetime. Although objects can be accepted by the government after death, to cover inheritance tax, there is currently no similar benefit for lifetime giving. The financial implications are not spelt out in the report, bur Sir Nicholas told APOLLO that this new concession on income tax might cost the Treasury 30 million [pounds sterling] a year in lost revenue. However, the donations would bring in works of art valued at around 75 million [pounds sterling] for the nation. The offer of tax breaks for lifetime giving would follow the practice in the USA, where it has played a key role in encouraging a culture of philanthropy.

The Goodison Review's other major proposals to encourage private philanthropy include reforms to the acceptance in lieu system, which permits works of art to be given to cover inheritance tax and then allocated to public collections. Sir Nicholas suggests that items should be accepted in lieu not only of inheritance tax, but also of capital gains tax and income tax on a deceased's estate.

On the separate issue of conditional exemption from inheritance tax, the review tackles the 'tricky issue' of what sort of public access there should be to works of art which have been exempt. Now more than a century old, 'conditional exemption' allows inheritance tax incurred on works of art to be deferred until the work is sold. Since the 1970s, the concession has required some degree of public access to the work of art. The current government has changed the rules to ensure a greater degree of access. Sir Nicholas calls for more flexibility, so owners will continue to use the system, which is intended to stem the sale of works of art, and encourage them to he kept in the country.

When the Goodison Review was published in February, it listed forty-three recommendations which 'could be set in train quickly'. So far, however, there has been little official reaction. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is broadly supportive, but it is mainly a matter for the Treasury, which has not yet made a detailed response. But, as Sir Nicholas concluded, 'private patronage and giving are keys to the future of our museums', as the following list of the major private collectors in the UK makes clear. It suggests that the extent of the help they are giving to the country's museums and galleries is seriously underrated.

The following alphabetical list identifies twenty-five of the most significant collectors active in Britain. For most, collecting is linked to philanthropic activity. Given the discreet nature of so much private collecting in Britain, other names could no doubt have been considered. Among them might be Sir James Goldsmith's daughter Isabel Goldsmith (Victorian and Symbolist art); billionaire currency trader Joseph Lewis (Impressionist and modern painting); furniture retailer Lord Kirkham (Old Masters from Gainsborough to Monet); Robert Miller, who made his fortune in duty free sales (Old Masters, nineteenth century and American abstract art); and the property developers John Scott (Victorian Gothic revival) and John and Jill Ritblat (nineteenth century, modern and contemporary art). However, the names listed below provide a good snapshot of contemporary British collecting.

Andrew Brownsword

Greetings card retailer and hotelier Andrew Brownsword has only recently become known as a collector. He now has his own charity to loan works to public collections. So far, his only recorded purchase for the foundation is Gainsborough's Byam Family, which he bought in June 1999 for an undisclosed sum, believed to be 3 million [pounds sterling]. It is currently on loan to the Holburne Museum in Bath.

Frank Cohen

Much less well known as a collector of contemporary art than Charles Saatchi, although this may soon change, Frank Cohen made his money from DIY retailing. Now based in Manchester, he claims to have the largest contemporary collection outside London, with 1000 works. Highlights are to be shown in London later this month, at the EFG Bank, 3 Grafton Street (23 June-2 July, weekdays only). Later this year part of his collection will go on permanent display in Manchester.

Dame Vivien Duffield, the daughter of the property developer Sir Charles Clore, has long been a major patron through the Clore and Vivien Duffield foundations, which merged four years ago. In 1987 the charities funded the Clore Gallery for Turner's paintings at the Tale, with a 6 million [pounds sterling] donation. Since then contributions have been made to numerous galleries (usually for educational facilities), including donations of over a million pounds to the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Modern and the National Gallery of Scotland. Sir Charles Clore was a distinguished collector of eighteenth-century French furniture, gold boxes and Old Masters; Dame Vivien's more eclectic interests include contemporary art.

Robert Hiscox

Chairman of the Hiscox insurance group, Robert Hiscox has both formed a notable private collection of modern British art and built up a distinguished corporate collection. He has been a patron of Andy Goldsworthy, who has created works for Mr Hiscox's Wiltshire estate. He told APOLLO that he also collects eighteenth century Irish furniture. Through his company Mr Hiscox has become a considerable art philanthropist and is involved with Save Our Sculpture, which campaigns to preserve public-especially outdoor--sculpture.

The company also organises regular exhibitions of contemporary art in its City headquarters.

Sir Joseph Hotung

Sir Joseph, a UK citizen, has been a major donor to the British Museum, supporting the Oriental Antiquities gallery and the exhibition gallery in the Great Court. A property developer and financier, he is an important collector of Asian antiquities, particularly jade.

Nasser Khalili

Iranian-born, but now a UK citizen, Nasser Khalili made his money in property and finance. Among the most interesting and ambitious of British collectors, Mr Khalili owns one of the world's largest private collections of Islamic art, with over 20,000 items. He also has the finest collection of Meiji art outside Japan, as well as Spanish damascene metalwork and Swedish textiles.

In recent years he has toured highlights of his collections ('Heaven on earth: Islamic art from the Khalili and Hermitage collections', is currently at the Hermitage Rnonis in London's Somerset House.)

Talking to APOLLO, Mr Khalili revealed that he intends to set up a major museum in London and for the first time he gave a time-frame. 'I will do it in the next five years,' he promised, and he is about to begin the search for suitable premises. As he stresses, 'it won't cost the taxpayer a penny.'

Lord Lloyd-Webber

Lord Lloyd Webber's collection is centred on the Pre Raphaelites, although it includes many other works. In financial terms, he has probably spent more than any other collector on British art in the past twenty years. A few major works have been acquired by his charity, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation. These include Canaletto's View of the Old Horse Guards (bought for 10 million [pounds sterling] in 1992) and Picasso's Angel Fernandez de Soto (18 million [pounds sterling] in 1995), and these are often on loan to public galleries. Most of the collection is in his houses, particularly Sydmonton Court in Berkshire. Nearly 300 works were shown at a major exhibition at the Royal Academy last autumn. Lord Lloyd Webber has said that he wants his collection to be kept together in the long-term and open to the public, probably at Sydmmonton, where it would form a major addition to Britain's country-house collections.

John Madejski

Another recent donor is publisher and football promoter John Madejski, who funded the refurbishment of a room at the Royal Academy three years ago and later gave 3 million [pounds sterling] towards the restoration of the Fine Rooms, which opened in March. He has only recently begun to collect, but paid 5 million [pounds sterling] at Sotheby's in February for the Degas sculpture Little dancer of 14 years (currently on loan to the Royal Academy).

Sir Denis Mahon

In terms of donations of works of art, Sir Denis leads the way, having assembled an important collection of 58 Italian paintings, mainly seventeenth-century Neapolitan. These are currently on loan to UK galleries, but they will eventually become a bequest through the NACF. Nearly half the pictures are at the National Gallery, with the remainder at the Ashmolean Museum, the National Gallery of Scotland, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery and Temple Newsam House in Leeds. Their present value is well in excess of 25 million [pounds sterling]. Sir Denis, aged 93, has retired from active collecting.

Sir Edwin Manton

Although Sir Edwin lives in New York, he was born in the UK and remains a British citizen. His wealth has come from the insurance business. Sir Edwin donated 12 million [pounds sterling] for the building development at late Britain in 2001, Constable's Glebe Farm. Sir Edwin, now 95, is a collector of British watercolours and has fifty Constable works on paper.

Sir Peter Moores

The most recent example of a privately created institution is Compton Verney, created in a 1760s country house near Stratford upon-Avon. It is being funded by a 64 million [pounds sterling] donation from Sir Peter Moores, who inherited part of the Littlewoods football pools and retailing wealth. In terms of the sum involved, this puts him in the same league as the Sainsburys and Sir Paul Getty. Sir Peter had his own very personal vision: 'I liked the idea of an art gallery in a country house. I also disapprove of the "art historical" approach of most museums.'

Compton Verney's permanent displays, described on p. 101, represent Sir Peter's personal tastes, although he admits they are 'not necessarily what I would want at home'. Ranging from Neapolitan paintings (1600-1800), German paintings and sculpture (1450-1650) and Chinese bronzes and pottery to British portraits and folk and popular art, these are works which he 'thinks the British public don't know about-and which they will find it easy to get on with.' So far 18 million [pounds sterling] has been spent on acquisitions, which are vested in a charitable trust.

Christopher Moran

Property developer Christopher Moran is known only in specialist circles as a major collector of English furniture of around 1600. At present housed largely in Scotland, it has been assembled partly to furnish his large new house on Chelsea Embankment, London, built in Tudor style, which is currently being fitted out.

Sir Christopher Ondaatje

Born in Ceylon, Ondaatje, who made his wealth in Canada, as a financier and broker, has assembled the most important collection of Sri Lankan antiquities and art outside the country. He gave 2.75 million [pounds sterling] for the new wing at the National Portrait Gallery, which opened in 2000. In February this year he also donated 1 million [pounds sterling]. to the National Gallery towards the acquisition of Raphael's Madonna of the pinks.

Sir Tim Rice

Lord Lloyd Webber's former librettist has made several important loans from his collection. In 2003-2004 he lent to the Bowes Museum, County Durham, fifty nine of his collection of around 100 paintings, which include works by Rembrandt, the Impressionists and Warhol. He also collects royal portraits.

Lord Rothschild

Although the Rothschilds' Waddesdon Manor and its collections belong to the National Trust, the estate in which it sits is Lord Rothschild's, and he administers the family trusts that form its endowment. The banker and financier continues to add to Waddesdon's collection, which is centred around French eighteenth century decorative arts and English eighteenth-century painting. In 1991 Lord Rodtschild gave a major donation to the National Gallery (of which he was chairman of the trustees) for refurbishment of its central hall, but he has also played a key role in generating other funds for public collections through his role as first chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund and in his personal crusade to open up Somerset House. Indeed, Somerset House is a showcase of private philanthropy by collectors, housing as it does the Courtauld Institute (with pictures from Samuel Courtauld and other donors), the Gilbert Collection and the Hermitage Rooms (currently showing part of Nasser Khalili's Islamic art).

Charles Saatchi

Advertising executive Charles Saatchi opened a public gallery in St John's Wood in 1985, but in April 2003 he moved it to County Hall, on the South Bank. He has been buying seriously for thirty years, building up a huge collection of several thousand works of contemporary art, including all the big YBA names--Hirst, Emin, Hume, Lucas, Ofili, the Chapman Brothers and Whiteread. The 'Sensation' show of his collection at the Royal Academy in 1997 gave him an international profile. He also made major donations to public institutions through the National Art Collections Fund (thirty nine works in 2000) and the Arts Council (100 works in 1999 and thirty four works in 2003).

Wafic Said

Syrian-born financier Wafic Said does not advertise his collecting interests, which range from old masters (including de Troy's La lecture de Moliere, bought for 4.7 million [pounds sterling] in 1994) to Renoir.

Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover Simon Sainsbury Sir Timothy Sainsbury Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lady (Lisa) Sainsbury

The family which founded what is now the third largest supermarket chain in the United Kingdom has been the most generous donor to public collections in the recent past. In 1991 they funded the extension for the National Gallery, London and although the stun was never disclosed, it is believed to have been around 40 million [pounds sterling]. The gift came from three Sainsbury brothers--Lord (John) Sainsbury of Preston Candover, Simon Sainsbury and Sir Timothy Sainsbury.

The late Sir Robert Sainsbury (who died in 2000), an uncle of the three brothers, and his wife, Lisa, established the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, at the University of East Anglia, in Norwich, in 1973. Housed in a Norman Foster-designed gallery, the collection comprises more than 1000 objects from across the world, dating from antiquity to the twentieth century. At today's prices the collection would be worth many tens of millions of pounds.

Sir Robert's son, Science and Innovation minister Lord (David) Sainsbury of Turville, also collects modern and contemporary works.

Both branches of the Sainsbury family have continued to make an enormous contribution to the visual arts, although most of their charitable trusts do not bear the family name, to separate them in the public mind from the supermarket chain. Their charities include the Headley, Linbury, Monument and Robert and Lisa Sainsbury trusts. They have made major contributions to recent development projects at Tate Britain, Tate Modern, the British Museum, Somerset House, the Wallace Collection, Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Ashmolean Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Sir Colin St John Wilson

Among the newest major donors of works of art is architect Sir Colin St John Wilson, who in March this year presented 600 works of modern and contemporary British art to the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. Sir Colin is also designing an extension to the gallery, due to open in April 2005. Assembled over fifty years, the pictures are believed to be worth around 5 million [pounds sterling]. Like Sir Denis Mahan's gift, it was presented under the auspices of the National Art Collections Fund.

Janet Wolfson de Botton

A daughter of Lord Wolfson, Janet Wolfson de Botton is one of the leading collectors and donors of contemporary art. In 1996 she presented sixty works to the Tare, including pieces by Judd, Long, Scully, Stella and Warhol; perhaps the most important donation of works of art to the gallery in the past twenty years.

Lord Wolfson

Lord (Leonard) Wolfson's father, Sir Issac Wolfson, set up the Wolfson Foundation, based on his Great Universal Stores fortune. The foundation has made grants of over 1 million [pounds sterling] to the National Gallery, Tare and Victoria and Albert Museum. The foundation's Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund is currently disbursing 2 million [pounds sterling] a year to institutions across the UK. Lord Wolfson is also a major collector and benefactor in his own right.

Martin Bailey is a correspondent of The Art Newspaper. He contributed a catalogue essay for the recent Hayward Gallery exhibition 'Saved! 100 years of the National Art Collections Fund'. Additional research by Samson Spanier.
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Author:Bailey, Martin
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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