The Art of Auction Acquisition

A. Alfred Taubman 1924- 2015 His Legacy?

Is it a done deal? It sure looks that way and there seems to be plenty of funds available so why not. Still there is a slightly bad taste to a deal to the Save the King appeal at York Civic Trust. The object of York’s desire is a 17th century wooden carving celebrating psalm 150 with King David playing a harp and Saint Cecilia playing an organ. It is said to have been created by  Grinling Gibbons whilst he was working in York.

It sold recently by Sotheby’s New York,  for $ 162,500 including buyers premium after a pre-sale estimate of $250,000 — $350,000. A small part of a $500m auction of Al Taubmans’s art collection.

Lets have a Fund Raiser

York’s appeal is for £300,000 of which £242,500 is already assured from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and Arts Council / V&A Purchase Grant. The public appeal launched in April 2017 is for a final £60,000 ‘to save this panel and secure the purchase….’

Strange then that it is likely to ‘become the focal point of the exhibition Made in York: Inventing and Enlightening the Georgian City’ from 5 May 2017 (almost before the money is donated.)

Strange also that the art work was part of the estate of the Sotheby’s former chairman Anthony A Taubman. As the former chairman of Sotheby’s, he served time in federal prison in 2003 over his role in a price-fixing scandal with Christie’s.

The third strange aspect is an assumption that the art work will be owned by the  York Civic Trust 229336. In January 2016 this charity had over £3.6m available stock market investments. The management fees paid by the Civic Trust are £20k per year! The York Conservation Trust 504302 act as heritage property asset owning landlords to various sites in York.


If the resources are already ‘in the bank’ why be disingenuous raising more money. If the intention is top up resources then why not say so. Poor behaviour risks damaging appeals for other charities and causes.

How open are the surrounding transactions and is money being wasted when it costs more than twice the hammer price compared to buying at auction.

It is not Charity Chit Chat’s role to question the who’s and whys of a deal that fits within the scope of the charitable purpose. However in the long term pushing the boundaries to the limit does no favours to the charity industry.


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