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


Mark Rothko

The Guggenheim Museum held a Rothko retrospective in late 1978 through early 1979. Sue Ginsburg, who has a great friend since my New York days, was advising Ted Ashley on his collection which was later sold at Christie’s following a very acrimonious divorce. They had visited the exhibition together and taken a great shine to Light Earth and Blue, 1954. Seeing that it was lent by a British collector, she asked me if I knew the owner. It was Rosie d'Avigdor-Goldsmid who I knew extremely well because in the early 1930’s she had been my mother’s chaperone - a most unlikely role for anybody who knew either of them. When I asked her if she might sell it she said “it is probably the best painting I ever bought as each time I lend it to an exhibition it comes back damaged so it pays for itself in insurance claims!” So for $100,000 it was sold.





Holly and Horace Solomon: Pattern and Decoration

Strangely I never came across Holly and Horace when I lived in New York. The first time I met them was during our first Lichtenstein show in 1974 when they bought a Still Life collage from it; soon after we became firm friends. By that time they had closed the 98 Greene St Loft space that had championed Laurie Anderson, Gordon Matta-Clark and Bill Wegman amongst others. Holly had her portrait done by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Christo and Mapplethorpe as well as many others. I remember Holly telling me that when they started buying Pop Art in the early 1960’s there were only a handful of collectors so you had all the time to makeup your mind and then in 1968 along came the Germans who started buying in earnest, so the cosy little tea party was over. They opened the Holly Solomon Gallery in 1975 where they promoted and nurtured the Pattern and Decoration movement. We showed a number of these artists over the years Brad Davis, Bob Kushner, Kim MacConnel, Ned Smyth, Robert Zakanitch and Joe Zucker. At the time they all sold like hot cakes but sadly by about 1983 they went out of fashion. I did a show in 1990 called Pattern and Decoration Revisited and the works looked as fresh and valid as in their heyday. Thankfully, recently, there has been a big renaissance of their work with the various Ludwig Museums doing a major retrospective. Over the years I bought a number of works from the Solomons by Johns, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg and Warhol including the Double Marilyn which had originally been given to David Herbert by Andy in 1962.


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

May 14, 2020