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A parting gift from a friend

The largest private collection of works by Frank Auerbach has been given to the nation in lieu of inheritance tax from Lucian Freud’s estate

A card sent from Auerbach to Freud is part of the artist's estate tax deal

Forty-four works by Frank Auerbach have been acquired for UK public collections from the estate of his long-standing friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud. The Acceptance in Lieu deal, announced today, 15 May, covers just over £16,250,000 in estate duty, which makes it the largest-ever arrangement to pay inheritance tax with art in the 100 years of the scheme.

Auerbach and Freud met in the early 1950s and remained close until Freud’s death in 2011. Among the 15 oil paintings accepted in lieu of tax are Rebuilding the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square, 1962, and a 1964 portrait of Auerbach’s cousin, Gerda Boehm. The 29 works on paper include the charcoal drawing Head of EOW, 1956, modelled after Estella West, as well as a set of five hand-drawn cards sent by Auerbach to Freud. The bequest represents the most important private collection of work by Auerbach, who is now 83 and one of the UK’s greatest living artists.

Highlights will be shown at Manchester Art Gallery from next week (17 May-10 August), and the full group is due to be displayed at Tate Britain this summer (25 August-2 November).

As well as the works by Auerbach, four other works on paper from Freud’s collection have been accepted in lieu, by Michael Andrews, John Lessore, Jack B. Yeats and Picasso. The Picasso is a small ink study for The Temptation of St Anthony, 1909, which was given to Freud by Picasso’s biographer, John Richardson.

Auerbach’s art will be split into 11 groups and distributed by Arts Council England to UK public collections later this year. Works are expected to go to the main galleries in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, and the Tate will also probably apply for a set (it already has 83 pieces by Auerbach, including prints).

Although the market value of the collection remains confidential, it is higher that the tax due and is estimated at around £23m. The Treasury sets a maximum yearly value for Acceptance in Lieu arrangements, and because of the unprecedented size of this deal, it had to be spread over two financial years.

Other works accepted in lieu of tax from Freud’s estate were announced last year: a Corot portrait went to London’s National Gallery, three Degas sculptures went to galleries in Cardiff, Liverpool and Leeds, and a Constable portrait was given to the National Gallery of Scotland. In 2012, Auerbach donated nine etchings by Freud to the Courtauld Gallery in London.

A 1964 portrait of Auerbach’s cousin, Gerda Boehm
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