30 Aug, 2010

Robert Devereux donates £4m of art collection

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Former Virgin partner gives away works by Frank Auerbach, Anthony Caro and Lucian Freud to help struggling artists in Africa

Robert Devereux, a former partner in the Virgin empire and Richard Branson’s brother-in-law, is to sell a large part of his collection of British postwar art and use the expected £4m proceeds to set up a charity supporting artists in Africa.

The multimillionaire is selling 329 paintings, sculptures and prints by leading names including Frank Auerbach, Anthony Caro and Lucian Freud. Sotheby’s, which is waiving its seller’s commission, described the number of artworks donated as unprecedented for a charity auction.

Devereux’s decision to part with two-thirds of a cherished collection that he has built up over 30 years was inspired partly by a Harare artist whose wife had to travel 26 hours to buy oils for him.

“It can be a struggle to be an artist wherever you are, but in Africa the lack of resources makes the challenge infinitely greater,” he said. “There are so many talented artists there… so I wanted to set up a charity to help.” He believes that the continent has undiscovered artists to match the old masters. He hopes to help them find materials, studios, exhibitions and sales.

His donation comes as Britain’s super-rich come under pressure to follow their US counterparts in giving away their fortunes. Two of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, have heralded a new age of philanthropy by pledging to donate the bulk of their wealth to charity. Their bid to convince fellow American billionaires to match their generosity has led to 38 pledging a total of $115bn to the newly formed Giving Pledge campaign. Of Britain’s 40 billionaires, only one, Lord Sainsbury, has so far donated enough to sign up to the scheme, it was reported this month.

Devereux, 55, made his fortune from Virgin and subsequent investments, including the Soho House Group. He applauded the Giving Pledge scheme, but said: “I wouldn’t necessarily do it the same way… I don’t have an easy affinity with ‘programmes’.” Instead he urges potential benefactors to follow their passions: “Find something you personally think needs doing. Understand and learn about it and do what you can for it.”

Asked whether Britain’s wealthiest should do more for their own country at a time of draconian cuts, Devereux said: “Yes, but it’s not just about giving money. I think what’s almost more important is if successful people can give their time and expertise. I like small organisations and I like things that are done at the grass roots. One problem with huge donations is that they get poured in from the top. Perhaps less with more precision and lower down the pyramid, so to speak, might be better.”

The word “reinvestment” is preferable to “charity”, he said. “It’s better to give a man a fishing rod than a fish. Handouts don’t work: investing in people does… and giving them something that, in a sense, they also have to contribute to.”

Citing the example of New Forests, “the largest tree planter in Africa” which he chairs, he explained: “It has a huge community development programme. It’s not philanthropy. We go to the community and we say, ‘We want to co-invest with you. If you provide what labour and materials you can, we’ll provide money for things that you can’t get.'”

He added: “I don’t think philanthropy should be a substitute for government spending… It should be a partnership. It’s difficult because people’s wealth has been damaged as well, which makes it harder for them to consider giving.”

Some might say art is low among Africa’s priorities when millions face starvation, disease and genocide. Devereux said: “I was chairman of Save the Rhino. People used to say, ‘Why are you saving rhinos and not children?’ But 95% of all giving is to human [welfare]. We’re the problem… we don’t have a divine right to the planet. I don’t subscribe to the view that all charity should be directed at starving children.” Ultimately, he observed, all that is left of any civilisation is its “creative endeavours”.

Philip Spedding of Arts & Business, which promotes partnerships between commerce and culture, described the £4m donation as “very significant by any stretch of the imagination – the largest for an overseas cultural activity”. He applauded Devereux for recognising the power of the arts to change lives: “Art can’t feed the stomach, but it can feed the soul.”

Devereux fell in love with Africa 15 years ago on holiday. He now spends much of the year there and has bought 400 works by African artists. One day he would like to donate them to a museum. “That would be my dream,” he said.

The funds raised at Sotheby’s in London on 3 and 4 November will set up The African Arts Trust. Though estimates start at £100 for a Stephen Conroy etching, Devereux said the sale will be accessible to first-time buyers.

Once a collector, always a collector, Devereux will continue to seek new works, hoping to raise more money for his African cause. One day, he said, he dreams of all the great cities of Africa having places where their own great artists can be seen.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Read the original post on Guardian Arts & Architecture

No Responses to "Robert Devereux donates £4m of art collection"

Comment Form


Flickr PhotoStream

    Fairy of the middle of Winter/ Яварь Середина-Зимыnozzle head trioLars MikkelsenCountry house and waterfalls - The majolica cloister of Santa Chiara in Naples (years 1739-1742) - Architect Domenico Antonio Vaccaro - Painters Giuseppe and Donato MassaCyborg Dude with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro & iPadKnock Out Game175. The Carlyle Hotel, South BeachPájaro N°3Quasi PrimaveraFfunny FfriendsCatch!American DreamA Blessing


HaggBridge.com brings you a daily update of news from art world, focused on UK based artists, exhibitions, and galleries.