Epic Guardi to be sold at Sotheby's - Aristo sell-off continues
February 24 2011
Picture: New York Times
Sotheby’s have announced a highlight of their next Old Master sale in London in July; Francesco Guardi’s ‘Venice, a View of the Rialto Bridge from the Fondamenta del Carbon’. The nearly 4ft by 6ft 'about $30m' canvas belongs to the family of the 1st Earl of Iveagh.
The sale demonstrates what I have suspected for a while – that we are witnessing the last hurrah of aristocratic art disposals. The following families have recently put a number of masterpieces up for sale; the Earls of Clarendon (Van Dyck), Jersey (Van Dyck), Rosebery (Turner), Wemyss (Poussin), Spencer (Rubens), and the Dukes of Portland (Van Dyck), Rutland (Poussin) and Sutherland (Titian). Even the Duke of Westminster is selling (Claude), though why is a mystery - he hardly needs the cash… [more below]
The consequence is that the UK's museum acquisition funds are being exposed as inadequate. Many significant works, like the Getty's new Turner, may now be lost overseas. We are facing a national heritage crisis.
There is one simple solution. For reasons I have never understood, the Heritage Lottery Fund resists funding acquisitions. As a result, museums rely on the dwindling National Heritage Memorial Fund of just £5m a year. But now that the government has increased the HLF’s share of Lottery cash (already £205m last year, with an extra £40m after the Olympics), surely the time has come for the HLF to step in, and help secure our national collection?