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There are some very big guns in the running for the 2014 Museum of the Year, literally in the case of the Mary Rose Museum, and then there is a minnow: a small centre celebrating the amazing artists who were attracted to the pretty South Downs village of Ditchling.

On Thursday evening The Art Fund named a shortlist of six organisations which will be finalists in this year's award, with the winner receiving £100,000.

Published in News
Friday, 02 May 2014 11:14

Van Dyck Self-Portrait will Stay in the UK

A self-portrait of Sir Anthony van Dyck has been saved for the nation, in the most successful public fundraising campaign for a work of art in the history of Britain.

The Van Dyck portrait, painted shortly before the artist's death, will now stay in the country after more than 10,000 members of the public stepped forward to help raise £10 million.

Published in News
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 13:50

Ashmolean Acquires Rarely Seen Old Master Painting

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England has acquired ‘Venice: The Fondamenta Nuove with the Lagoon and the Island of San Michele’ by Venetian painter Francesco Guardi. The museum acquired the rarely seen work under the Acceptance in Lieu of Inheritance scheme, which allows inheritance tax debts to be written off in exchange for the acquisition of objects of national importance. The Guardi painting cleared a bill of nearly £2 million. A grant from the Art Fund and contributions in memory of Jo Wilson and the Sir Denis Mahon Charitable Trust helped make up the difference in value, allowing the Ashmolean to acquire the work.

Guardi, who was born into a family of Venetian painters, is best known for his views of the city, which were especially popular with British tourists visiting Italy. Created for a British Grand Tourist, ‘Venice: The Fondamenta Nuove with the Lagoon and the Island of San Michele’ is one of Guardi’s early lagoon views illustrating the northern shore of Venice, the island of San Michele, and distant snow-capped mountains, which are rarely visible from the mainland.

Professor Christopher Brown CBE, Director of the Ashmolean, said, “This painting brings to the Ashmolean a poetic masterpiece in which Francesco Guardi reveals his full artistic potential. As the first major Venetian view-painting to enter the Museum’s collection it makes an inspirational addition to the Britain and Italy Gallery. We are profoundly grateful to the Arts Council, the Art Fund, and other supporters for making this acquisition possible.”

Published in News
Wednesday, 08 January 2014 17:53

British Museum Acquires Picasso Proofs

London’s British Museum has purchased two sets of proofs for Pablo Picasso’s linocuts ‘Still Life Under the Lamp’ and 'Jacqueline Reading’. The acquisition included a total of 13 works and was made possible by a fundraising campaign that garnered £500,000. The prints, which came from Picasso’s printer Hidalgo Arnéra, were purchased for £200,000 thanks to a grant from the Art Fund, which helps museums and galleries buy important works of art. The remaining £300,000 came from private donors.

The sets of proofs illustrate the step-by-step evolution of the linocuts as well as Picasso’s creative process. Stephen Deuchar, the director of the Art Fund, said, ““The visual impact, rarity and exceptional quality of the Picasso linocut sets makes them a fantastic acquisition for the British Museum and one which we are delighted to be supporting.”

Picasso explored the linocut technique during the late 1950s and early 1960s and the proofs acquired by the British Museum feature two of his most important pieces from this period. The works will remain on view at the museum through May 6, 2014.


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The National Portrait Gallery in London has acquired a 17th century portrait of Lady Anne Clifford, an early feminist and patron of the arts. When Lady Clifford died in 1676 at the age of 86, she was likely Britain’s wealthiest woman. Clifford fought a lifelong battle for her inheritance from her father, George Clifford, Third Earl of Cumberland, which had been left to her uncle. Through archival research and dogged legal disputes, Lady Clifford established the justice of her claims.  

William Larkin painted the portrait recently acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1616 when Lady Clifford was 28 years old. The work was given to her cousin but then lost for centuries. It was traced by gallery owner Mark Weiss to a European private collection and purchased by the National Portrait Gallery for £275,000, including a £70,000 grant from the Art Fund charity.

Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said, “Lady Anne Clifford painted by William Larkin is a fascinating portrait of an important woman, and I am very grateful to the Art Fund and our generous individual supporters who have made the acquisition possible.”

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In February 2013, the British government placed a temporary export ban on two important oil paintings by George Stubbs (1724-1806), an English painter best know for his depictions of horses. The works, which went on display at London’s Royal Academy in 1773, gave the British public their first glimpse of a kangaroo and a dingo.

The export ban went into effect shortly after it was decided by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest that the paintings were of outstanding significance for the study of 18th century exploration of Australia and the public dissemination of knowledge during the Enlightenment. The point of the export ban was to grant UK museums enough time to raise the £5.5 million necessary to keep the Stubbs paintings in the UK.

The National Maritime Museum in London has launched a £1.5 million bid to acquire Kongouro from New Holland (Kangaroo) and Portrait of a Large Dog (Dingo). The museum has already secured £3.2 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and an additional £200,000 from the Art Fund. If the Maritime Museum’s appeal is successful, the paintings will initially go on display in the Queen’s House in Greenwich in 2014.

Stubbs created the Kongouro and Portrait of a Large Dog based on spoken accounts, as he had never actually seen the animals. It is believed that Sir Joseph Banks commissioned the paintings after assisting in Captain James Cook’s voyage to the Pacific. Following their completion, Stubbs won praise for bringing the likenesses of the foreign animals to the British public for the first time.

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Think contemporary art in France and it is Paris’s still radical-looking Centre Pompidou that springs to mind. But for all Beaubourg’s status as a cultural powerhouse, the French have been anxious not to neglect their regions. In the past 30 years state-funded collections of contemporary art have quietly sprung up across France, bringing big-name artists such as Cindy Sherman and Sophie Calle to remote corners of the country, from Brittany to Provence.

The Fonds régionaux d’art contemporain (regional contemporary art funds, or Frac) were initiated by culture minister Jack Lang in 1982 as part of a decentralisation plan, the aim being to present the artists of the day to a diverse public in a spirit of fraternité. Now numbering 23, Frac are present in every French region, with more than 26,000 works by 4,200 French and international artists comprising the third largest public collection of contemporary art in France (behind the Paris-based Cnap, the Centre national des arts plastiques, and the Pompidou’s Musée national d’art moderne).

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The government has barred the export of a tender early painting by Picasso, his 1901 Child with a Dove, in the hope that a museum or gallery may manage to raise the £50m price and keep it in the country. The painting has been in British collections since 1924 and on loan to public collections in Britain for decades.

However it will take a miracle, or an exceptionally benevolent millionaire donor, to keep it here: the pockets of major museums and grant-givers are almost empty after a string of recent high-profile campaigns for other artworks.

Published in News
Friday, 15 April 2011 03:36

Russia launches $470 million private art fund

The 'Sobranie.Photoeffect' fund, created by fund managers Agana, comprises nearly 300,000 original prints by 250 domestic and foreign photographers and is worth a combined $467 million.

The fund, partly made up of Soviet Union collections with the potential for adding contemporary Russian photographers, will target foreign investors in the Russian market offering a safe "investment money shelter," said Ekaterina Aleksandrova, Agana's deputy director general.

The portfolio included photographs of Russia's Tsarist family, the Romanovs, as well as early paparazzi shots of Italian actress Sophia Loren.

"Art investment has proven over a century to be reliable, profitable and not volatile. Art indexes have been growing faster and falling slower than stocks in the S&P 500 index in past decades," Alexandrova said, adding that the 2008-09 financial crisis only affected sale volumes, not prices.

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The UK's biggest art charity, the Art Fund, intends to increase the amount it makes available for galleries to buy works of art by more than 50% by 2014 – warning that at a time of government spending cuts, museum collections risk being "fatally undermined".

The charity also launched a new National Art Pass, which will give members of the charity free entry to over 200 museums and half-price admittance to temporary shows. The pass has been dubbed "the aesthete's Oyster" by Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum – a museum's equivalent of the card that regulars use on the London transport network.

Annually, the Art Fund will hand out £7m, rather than the £4.5m it grants currently. According to the Art Fund director Stephen Deuchar: "In the past six months, as I have been talking to museum directors ... about how we can help them, I've been struck by growing worries that as belts tighten, and national and local funding diminishes severely, that acquisitions of major works of art may not be possible and all past progress in creating world-class collections may be fatally undermined."

Museums and galleries, he said, could not continue as lively and vital institutions reflecting the society around them without renewing their collections. "We can't just stop collecting," he said. "It would be like a theatre not saying it wasn't going to mount any more new productions or a library saying they weren't going to buy any new books."

The Art Fund, formally the National Art Collections Fund, is the UK's largest art charity. Founded in 1903, it exists to help museums and galleries buy works of art that would otherwise be lost from public view. It is largely funded by the £35 annual fee paid by its 80,000 members and has mounted many successful fundraising campaigns to save artworks for the nation, including, last year, the fundraising effort to buy the Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasures and Pieter Bruegel the Younger's The Procession to Calvary.

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