London’s National Portrait Gallery aims to raise £50m to buy Reynolds’ Omai

art newspaper It could reveal that the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London is planning to raise £50m to buy the famous Joshua Reynolds. picture of my mom (about 1776). In 2001, Tate tried in vain to secure the business for £5.5 million; A new £50m valuation has been set this year. If the purchase is successful, this price will be identical to the most expensive work purchased by the Titian Museum in the UK Diana and Actaeon (1556-59). Titian was jointly acquired by the National Gallery of London and the National Gallery of Scotland in 2009.

Omai It is the greatest painting by one of the best British painters. It depicts the young Tahitian man Mai (also known as Omai), one of Polynesia’s first visitors to Europe, who sailed for Britain with Captain Cook in 1774 after Cook’s first voyage. Omai returned to Polynesia in 1777, accompanied Cook on his third voyage, and probably died there two years later, at the age of 26.

Last March, Britain’s arts minister delayed the issuance of an export license for Omi, initially until July 10. The delay was then quietly extended until March 2023, meaning an undisclosed British buyer had given special notice to the government that it intended to try to match the £50m price tag. art newspaper It can be informed that the institution that will go for the drawing is NPG.

Several other museums have potential interest. Tate made a valiant effort to purchase the image in the early 2000s. Omai It would have fit into the National Gallery’s collection, but his efforts are now focused on raising funds for a bicentennial building project. The Royal Museums Greenwich may also have been interested, due to Cook’s connection, as well as the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby, Yorkshire.

Overview once and for all

An NPG spokesperson told us: “Sir Joshua Reynolds picture of my mom It is one of the greatest British paintings and a painting of unique national and international cultural significance. The National Portrait Gallery supports critical efforts to give British institutions the opportunity to acquire this painting of unique significance to the nation to ensure it is displayed to the public once and for all, where it belongs. The second deferment period will give us the opportunity to explore a number of potential fundraising clients and give potential supporters the opportunity to come forward to help prevent this key work of British culture from leaving.”

From NPG ambition to try to buy Omai, as it is in the final stages of a major £35.5m refurbishment of the gallery, with a capital fundraising target now reached. The building has been closed since 2020, and is scheduled to reopen next year.

How will 50 million pounds be raised? The National Heritage Memorial Fund, managed by the National Lottery Heritage Trust, is an obvious resource, although with limited resources, with an annual grant of £5 million per year.

An art fund is almost sure to help. A spokesperson for the fund says: “We discussed how we can support and campaign to save this very important work.” This indicates that a generous grant will be made, but with Art Fund’s total support for acquisitions for all UK museums last year amounting to £3.3m, this will contribute only a very small component of the £50m requested.

Funding from private donors now needs to be approached with sensitivity. The scandal related to the donations made by some members of the Sackler family has made all museums more careful about the moral acceptance of the donations. Invading Ukraine rules out approaching potential Russian donors. However, NPG has quietly made good progress in dealing with individual donors and charitable trusts. The current post-Covid economic situation and the looming recession will also add to the challenges.

NPG can also request a one-time special government scholarship. Such grants for museum holdings have been quite rare in recent decades, but there is a sense that this is one purchase they may agree to support.

If the photo of Reynolds is obtained successfully, it will join another important photo shoot for Umi. William Barry Portrait of Umi, Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander (1775-76) was purchased for £950,000 in 2003 and is owned by the NPG, Amgueddfa Cymru-Museum Wales and Captain Cook Memorial Museum.

The success of Parry’s joint acquisition indicates that the NPG can still be linked to another Reynolds museum. Its director, Nicholas Cullinan, is open to collaborative efforts to save Omai for the nation.

From 5 to 50 million pounds: a tangled story

Omai It was first sold in 1796, four years after Joshua Reynolds’ death, going to the 5th Earl of Carlisle. For more than two centuries, it passed through the family to the 13th Earl. When Tate learned in 2001 that Earl was intending to sell the painting, he was offered £5.5 million, but problems arose and the sale did not proceed.

Good call: John Magnier, owner of a Dublin stud, bought a Reynolds portrait of Umi in 2001 for just over £10 million; In just over 20 years, the value of the painting has increased fivefold. Credit: Allstar Picture Library Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

The earl was sold instead Omai at Sotheby’s in 2001. Estimated at £7 million, he ended up making £10.3 million. The buyer was a Swiss company, Settlements SA, controlled by John Magnier, a Dublin collector and horse owner. A year later he applied for an export license to take the painting to Ireland. at this time Omai worth 12.5 million pounds sterling. The export license was postponed to allow the British buyer to match the price.

In an act of amazing generosity, an anonymous private donor offered to give Tate the full amount of the purchase Omai. However, the owner refused to sell, and thus the export license was withheld. This means it Omai It had to be kept in the UK, so it was placed in a secure art storage facility, possibly in London.

Omai It was loaned in 2005 to Reynolds’ main gallery at Tate Britain and later that year the owner applied for a temporary export license to loan the painting to the Dublin National Gallery in Ireland, where it remained for six years. This loan gave the owner significant tax benefits under Irish law (a loophole that was later closed after the case). Omai To the UK in 2011 and again went to storage.

In 2016 another application to export temporarily Omai to Ireland for 15 months. By this time, the Works of Art Export Review Committee had become concerned that there should be restrictions on extending temporary licenses.

Earlier this year an application for a permanent export license was submitted, with a new valuation of £50m, which is what gave UK buyers the opportunity to match the price. The £50m valuation as appropriate was confirmed by two independent evaluators, including London trader Anthony Mold.

Although owning a Magnier Omai For more than 20 years, he never enjoyed painting in his home. But as a financial investment, it would certainly have benefited greatly from the acquisition.

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