Controversial art sell-off raises £444,000

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A sell-off of publicly-owned art raised more than £444,000 at an auction on Thursday (March 21).

Herts County Council took the controversial decision to sell – or give away – hundreds of pieces of art from its 1,828-piece collection in 2017.

In a sale lasting more than three hours, the first 152 items from the collection went under the hammer at Cheffins Cambridge-based auction house last week.

The highest price fetched was for John Tunnard’s ‘Brandis ’44’, which sold for £37,000 – well over its estimate of £10-15,000.

Anne Redpath’s ‘Blue Plate’ sold for £31,000 – three times its lower estimate of £10,000, a pastel by Scottish artist Joan Eardley raised £31,000, and Keith Vaughan’s ‘Grey Shore Seascape’ sold for £27,000.

In June last year a 1,500-
signature petition was presented to the council, calling for the plans to dispose of the artworks to be halted.

Following the sale, Cllr Terry Douris said: “The money raised can be used to improve the condition and public visibility of the nationally significant sculptures we hold.”

The four most valuable sculptures in the collection – with an estimated value of £21.86million – have not been earmarked for disposal. A further 300 items will go to auction on April 25 and May 23.