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p12-14 Happenings/ld

11/10/03

12:46 PM

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happenings

S AV E D !

The National Art Collections Fund celebrates 100 years of rescuing art for Britain. By Polly Chiapetta

to saving art for the nation celebrates 100 years this year.The National Art Collections Fund, or NACF as it is normally known, helps to secure works of art that would otherwise be sold abroad, and is associated with some of the most important objects still (thanks to it) in British collections:Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, Holbein’s Queen Christina of Denmark, both in the National Gallery, and Picasso’s Weeping Woman in the Tate are among the best known. Now the achievements of the NACF are being celebrated in a new exhibition at the refurbished Hayward Gallery in London. It features a selection from the 500,000 works of art that the NACF has been involved in supporting over the years. The original founders of the charity were individuals passionate about art and concerned at the speed at which important works were being sold abroad for prices that British galleries could not hope to match.The critic Roger Fry, the heiress Christiana, Lady Herringham, a critic and later keeper of the Tate Gallery, D.S. MacColl, and the lawyer and connoisseur Claude Phillips, made up the original group; they set the annual membership fee at a guinea.Within a year there were 300 members and the Fund stood at £700. Artists rallied to the cause in its early days, among them Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema and John Singer Sargent as well as connoisseurs such as Sir Robert Witt and scholars including Sidney Colvin. A charity that devotes its efforts

Clockwise from above: Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Lucas Cranach, 1530; Turning the World Inside Out by Anish Kapoor, 1996; The Forest Fire by Piero de Cosimo, 1490; Cameo jewel from the Girona Treasure, Anonymous Spanish, 16th century

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effects of the agricultural crisis and a discouraging tax system in Britain were such that owners – usually landed families struggling to maintain houses and estates – sold art to raise funds.With the National Gallery’s own purchase fund standing at a miserable £10,000, it was left to individuals and museums abroad to reap the spoils. By the end of the century, the number of works formerly in British collections that had been bought by German galleries had reached 30. From its earliest days, the Fund was even-handed in the types of works it was involved in acquiring: in its early years these included an Iznik ware pot for the Victoria and Albert museum as well as a controversial modern work: James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s painting Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Old Battersea Bridge, which went to the Tate. This catholicity has continued to the present day, when there is equally

COLLECTIONS

©TATE, BRADFORD ART GALLERIES AND MUSEUM, THE NATIONAL GALLERY

In the 50 years preceding the Fund’s foundation, the


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