Colin Gleadell reveals two British collections that were created without the brute force of money but through passion, dedication and hard work. Here’s one of them:
In the Leeds Art Gallery, retired local GP Jeffrey Sherwin is showing off 220 works from his modern art collection that has a special focus on British Surrealist art. As a student, Sherwin admits, he used to buy pictures from Hyde Park’s railings, but was inspired by an exhibition of British Surrealist art which he saw in Leeds in 1986. At the time, he says, he “didn’t even know British Surrealists existed”. He was not alone. Most collectors considered Surrealism a European art movement, and British involvement to be peripheral. The upside for Sherwin was that there was little competition. Even in the mid-Nineties, he could buy first-rate examples by underrated artists – John Selby-Bigge’s Tyrolean Dreams (1935), or John Banting’s Battle of the Jaw Bones (1929) – for under £1,000 each.
As James Rawlin, head of Sotheby’s modern British art department, recalls: “Jeffrey was very clever, very astute, and very dedicated.” He didn’t just buy at auction, he networked among dealers and surviving artists. “You couldn’t assemble a collection like his today,” says Rawlin. “The material just isn’t there any more.”
Art Sales: How to Collect Modern Art on a Budget (Telegraph)