Sale of Croydon ceramics disappoints
Controversial auction of works from museum collection fails to reach its low estimate
By Martin Bailey. Web only
Published online: 27 November 2013
Highlights of Croydon’s collection of Chinese ceramics sold for £8.2m at Christie’s Hong Kong today, 27 November, bringing in much less than expected. The sell-off has proved highly controversial, because accredited UK museums are normally not allowed to deaccession to raise funds. Despite this, Croydon Council, in south London, went ahead and sold many of the finest pieces it had acquired from the local collector Raymond Riesco in 1964. The proceeds are likely to go towards refurbishing the Fairfield Halls, a theatre and music venue.
Of the 24 lots offered at Christie’s, only 17 sold. The star piece, a blue-and-white moonflask (1426-35), did well, going for £2.3m to an Asian dealer. Some of the seven pieces that failed to sell may now be sold privately. The total pre-sale estimate was £9m to £14m and the £8.2m sale total includes buyer’s premiums. Croydon will also have to pay seller’s premiums, but private sales could bring in more. A Croydon spokesman says the council is “reasonably happy” with the prices achieved.
Maurice Davies, a Museums Association spokesman, says that it is “a tragic day” because Croydon’s deaccessioning is unethical. On 30 September the city council resigned from the association, when it was on the verge of being expelled. Arts Council England, which administers the museum accreditation system, is now expected to reconsider Croydon’s status. Losing accreditation may make it more difficult for Croydon Museum to borrow works from other public collections and raise funds.
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