Andrew Murray and the Regional Museums
I first met Andrew Murray in Paris in 1967 when he was working at the Galerie Coard. After the Paris riots of May 1968, he came back to England and soon after started working with my father. He was very good at selling to the regional museums. In 1979, he instigated our annual exhibitions from their collections starting with the Southampton City Art Gallery; these went on for a dozen or so years. They were a great success and it was a great help to them and to us as we could get to know what they were hoping to buy, often with a very limited budget. Southampton, for instance, was left an interesting group of surrealist works by Arthur Jeffries and from that they built up a considerable collection of British Surrealism.
Sir Timothy Clifford, whose father had been a fellow officer in the camouflage corps with my father in WW2, was at the time the director of the Manchester Art Gallery where he did a magnificent job bringing it back to life with his great natural flair - rather like he did later in Edinburgh. To me, one of the greatest sadnesses is that he was never made the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Tim mentioned to us that his dream was to have a major Francis Bacon from the 1960’s. In May, I was visiting clients in St Louis when I went to see Ronnie Greenberg in his gallery where he mentioned that a client of his had Francis Bacon’s Portrait of Henrietta Moraes on a Blue Couch, 1965, which they wanted to sell. After seeing it I felt that it might be perfect for Manchester and asked him to reserve it. On my return home, I immediately contacted Tim who loved it and was prepared to blow his whole budget (and probably more) on it. So for $155,000 that’s how it got there.
I first met Mario Tazzoli and Massimo Martino in 1973 through Barry Miller (I will write about Barry another time) when they bought Peter Blake’s Woman in The Window, 1962, from us. Mario’s family had been bankers to the Agnelli family amongst others, so when he decided to become an art dealer rather than a banker, he had the most extraordinary contacts as well as immaculate taste. Through them I bought and sold a great number of amazing works. We really only started doing business together in 1979 when they came into the gallery asking if we would like to sell a couple of Blakes for them. One was Le Petit Porteur which they had just failed to sell at Christie’s but which we went on to sell it to the Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam and the other was Woman in The Window, which we had sold to them previously, and this we sold to the Leeds Art Gallery.
Sir Peter Blake RA, Woman in The Window, 1962, Mixed Media Construction, 44 1/4 x 48 3/4 x 14 inches (112.5 x 124 x 35.5 cm), Leeds Art Gallery
An amusing story involving Peter Blake and his painting Dr K Tortur: In 1974 I went to see David Gibbs at the Pace Gallery. He wanted to show me a painting by Rosenquist called Mayfair which we bought and as an afterthought he asked if we might be interested in a Blake to which I replied. "Of course, depending on the price." So out comes this masterpiece which had been the cover of Robert Fraser’s show of Wrestlers and Pin-Ups in 1965. He gave me the price of $750 and not believing my luck I literally took it with me under my arm. Two days later I got a telegram from David signed 'Tortured David' telling me that Robert Fraser, not knowing I’d got there first, had just offered him $15,000 for it.
Mark Rothko, Light Earth and Blue, 1954, oil on canvas, 75 1/2 x 67 inches (191.5 x 170 cm), Private Collection
Holly and Horace Solomon: Pattern and Decoration
Andy Warhol, Two Marilyns, 1962, acrylic, silkscreen ink and pencil on linen, 20 1/8 x 27 inches (51 x 68.5 cm), The Broad, Los Angeles