The long-running saga of the Duke of Sutherland’s Titians has come to a pause, if not an end, with the raising of £50 million for the first picture, Diana and Actaeon. But with the collapse of the world economy and the fall in art prices and demand, the whole affair is becoming awkward. Here’s Waldemar Jansuzczak’s take from a larger screed on the whole of art market published in the Times of London:
A mere month ago, nobody seemed to be batting much of an eyelid at the prospect of the nation having to come up with £50m to “save” the Duke of Sutherland’s fine pair of Titians from resale. The great works, we were told, would fetch £150m on the open market. The nation was getting a bargain.
(More Class Warfare after the jump.)
Now, I admire Titian as much as the next art-lover, and nobody with half an eye would question the quality of these paintings, but look properly around you and you will see Britain is already Titian-rich. Yes, it would have been sad to see the duke’s pair go abroad, but when a nurse in Yorkshire is paid £17,000 per annum to save lives, and a teacher in an inner-city comprehensive makes do with not much more, there is surely something grotesquely warped about a scale of modern values that brands the giving of £50m to a rich duke for an Italian painting as a national bargain.
The Duke isn’t too happy either. He’s left defending his transaction in the Telegraph:
“It is unfortunate that it has dragged along to this unhelpful time economically. I honestly don’t know why it has dragged along.
“From the valuations and things being bandied about, I don’t know if I’m doing that well. I think the nation is probably doing pretty well. I’m sure the figure is a good deal lower than it would have been.” [ . . . ]
The duke said: “I can’t see where class warfare comes to it. They are pictures. They are either worth saving so they remain in the National Gallery or they are not. That’s the only question.”
Time for a Cull in the Art World (Times of London)