One of the best-loved works by Pablo Picasso on display in Britain is set to leave the country next month with Qatar its likely destination. Experts have expressed dismay that Child with a Dove could not be saved for the nation, suggesting steps to increase philanthropy “may not be enough”.
Le Figaro reported that the significant early work had been acquired by Qatar for £50m, and follows pieces by Mark Rothko and Paul Cézanne into the collection controlled by the royal family.
Child with a Dove, which has been in the UK since 1924, was described by the Arts Council as the “probably the most famous work by Picasso in a UK collection”. It marks the move into the artist’s Blue Period.
After the sale of the painting last year by Christie’s on behalf of the Aberconway family in Wales the Government put in place a temporary export bar following advice from the Reviewing Committee, an independent body administered by the Arts Council. However the ban expired in December without any British institution able to raise the money to keep it in Britain.
Lord Inglewood, chair of the Reviewing Committee, told The Independent: “It is a great shame that institutions could not raise the funds necessary to keep this beautiful piece of art in this country.” He continued: “Clearly money was the problem, and while steps are being taken to increase philanthropy in the country, this suggests they may not be enough.”
The painting is currently on display in the Courtauld Gallery’s exhibition Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901. When the exhibition ends on 27 May it will return to Christie’s. The auction house declined to comment on the movements of the painting on its return.
Barnaby Wright, curator of 20th century art at the Courtauld, said: “It is always a shame when great works leave the country.” He added that the image was “incredibly appealing. While some think it is sentimental, I think it has an edge, as well as being a beautiful image. It is the moment that marks Picasso finding his own voice.”
The Picasso expert Gijs van Hensbergen said: “This is a great early Picasso; there’s a good reason why it is popular.” He added: “Pre-crisis, works of that quality and value would never change hands. After the world changed nothing is set in concrete. It is a sad realisation that empires decline and culture goes with the money.”
While Qatar has become a powerhouse in the market in the past few years, it has repeatedly declined to confirm which artworks it has bought despite reports that it paid $250m (£162m) for Cézanne’s The Card Players and $72m for Rothko’s White Centre (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose).
Qatar’s art drive is being overseen by Sheikha Mayassa al-Thani, the daughter of the emir.
Philip Hoffman, chief executive of the Fine Art Fund, said: “Qatar is one of the top three buyers in the world at the moment, and they have huge resources. It has made a huge commitment to making itself the hub of the art market in the Middle East. They are after a lot of major pieces,” but, he added, “there are limits.”
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$250m; The Card Players
Paul Cézanne painted five versions. Qatar is believed to have bought one for a world record $250m in 2011, with details of the deal only emerging months later.
$72.8m; White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose)
The Gulf state is also believed to be the buyer of this work by Mark Rothko which sold at Sotheby’s in New York in 2007 for $72.8m.
The Men in Her Life
Andy Warhol’s portrait of Elizabeth Taylor might belong to Qatar, according to The Art Newspaper, despite contrary claims by agent Philippe Segalot.
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