Auctions Museums Market China

Sale of Croydon ceramics disappoints

Controversial auction of works from museum collection fails to reach its low estimate

The star lot, a blue-and-white moonflask (1426-35), did well at Christie's Hong Kong auction, going for £2.3m to an Asian dealer, but some works failed to sell

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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Comments

3 Dec 13
18:55 CET

EMMA, LONDON

This is another part of the slow chipping away at the arts the Croydon Council have been involved in. Their decisions are actually costing them business, as companies realise that there is nothing for their staff to do out of working hours in the area, and are therefore not locating offices/businesses there. The people running the council clearly do not value the arts and I hope that ACE takes action very soon - limited and late though it is.

2 Dec 13
17:2 CET

JOHN FINLAY, PARIS, FRANCE

On p. 18 of the December 2013 print issue of TAN, Martin Bailey also wrote: “Croydon Council has admitted that of the original 650 pieces donated by Raymond Riesco, 180 were sold in 1970, 112 were sold in 1982, 39 were stolen and 89 are missing.” Why is this information not more prominently featured in reporting on the sale? Surely it points to the neglect and incompetence of the Council, which still trumpets the “stunning collection of Chinese ceramics” on display in the Riesco Gallery, ground floor, Croydon Clocktower.

29 Nov 13
15:41 CET

STEIN BJORTOMT, LONDON

It's an absolute disgrace. Croydon Council, obviously dazzled by newsworthy auction prices without looking into how "their" pieces would actually sell, have degraded themselves with this ugly, sad and destructive bit of business.

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