Art investors ready to pounce on local council's big sell off


Alternative investors looking to pick up a bargain artwork should turn their eyes to the north of England.

Bolton Council is selling off a part of its large art collection over the coming months.

The £180,000-estimated Seagulls and Sapphire Seas by Robert Gemmell Hutchison and John Everett Millais's £100,000-valued The Somnabulist will be among the standout features at Bonhams' sale on July 13.

The council bought Millais's work for £400 at Sotheby's in 1969.

The council owns around 1,100 pieces, including oils, watercolours and drawings, worth an estimated £16m, but just 50 are on display at any time in the town's art gallery.

42 years in Bolton has done little for the mood of Millais’s muse in The Somnabulist

Two Picasso etchings will also be sold in the future, as part of an attempt to raise a total of £500,000 to relocate the collection to a new purpose built storage facility.

11 paintings from the collection sold last week, for a combined £35,000.

"We've been forced into the very difficult decision - that it's better to sacrifice part of the collection in order to preserve the majority of the collection," Matthew Constantine, a manager at the Bolton Council's museum service, told the BBC.

In 2006, nearby Bury Council sold LS Lowry's A Riverbank for £1.4m to recoup losses.

In an age when every penny has to be justified and budgets are tight, increasing numbers of works owned by local bodies could find their way on to the auction block, as David Lee, editor of art magazine The Jackdaw, told the BBC.

"I think local councillors are going to start asking museums to justify huge tranches of public money being spent on facilities [such as art galleries]," he said.

"Eventually museums will be doing what museums do in America, which is selling stuff wholesale."

While many collectors will be excited by the upcoming auctions, some may wish to concentrate on the private markets, where bargains can also often be found.

We will bring you the news on Bolton Council's art sales here.


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