Richard Warren

20thc British art and poetry (mainly), plus bits of my own – "Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

Mandergate: meanness and magnanimity

The Wolverhampton Mander scandal rumbles on, with, as far as I’m aware, no resolution yet in sight. RBS and Delancey seem well dug in. But for those who still care (I hope you do), here’s a few new thoughts …

Mandergate on Facebook

facebook
Please call in at our brand new Save-the-Hepworth Facebook page, and please – pass it around far and wide. While you’re there, it would be good if you could click to like the page, which will help boost the headline support figure. An online petition is also a possibility under discussion – news of that if and when.

How do you flog a million pound sculpture?

Perhaps not at Sotheby’s, it’s been suggested to me. The seller’s commission of 20% or thereabouts would be a distinct disincentive, certainly, while the similar buyer’s commission would deter any sane purchaser. After all, why pay a person in a suit £400,000 plus between you to bang a gavel when you could do a deal down the pub with no such overheads? And if the seller’s fee is negotiated downwards, the recent practice, apparently, is for the difference to be pushed onto the hapless buyer.

Sotheby’s flog off a Giacometti for – gulp – £65m in 2010. The ‘Walking Man’ looks about as happy as the purchaser, who was saddled with a £7m buyer’s premium.

I’m told that the million plus figure bandied about for Wolverhampton’s Hepworth has actually been offered to RBS / Delancey by a serious enquirer, so forget scanning the auction catalogues – a private sale seems rather more likely, and – for all we know – may already have happened. Unless, of course, as suggested last time, Rock Form will be stashed away in the RBS Art Vault for the foreseeable, to accrue still more value.

Why should the Scots have all the best sculptures?

Saved for the nation - the Scot Bot 'Rock Form'. Could Wolverhampton borrow it for a bit, please?

Saved for the nation – the Scot Bot ‘Rock Form’. Could Wolverhampton borrow it for a bit, please?

Here’s a nice image of another casting of Rock Form in the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, looking oddly bluish in this shot. Along with a second Hepworth bronze, this has been there for nearly 40 years, almost as long as Wolverhampton’s version. After the artist’s death, the two were loaned by the Hepworth Estate to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, then housed at the Botanic Garden. Last November they were acquired for the nation via the government’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme, the Gallery’s director commenting that “it is wonderful that they can remain here indefinitely”.

Wonderful indeed. What a contrast to the main chance meanness pursued by RBS, custodians of the Wolverhampton Rock Form, and Edinburgh neighbours to the Gallery and the Botanic Garden! (And still 80% owned by you and me, I’d remind you.) Is a little magnanimity too much to hope for? How about a long term loan to Wolverhampton City Council, with Rock Form to resume its pride of place in the Mander Centre?

According to recent reports, RBS boss Ross McEwan admits that his company still faces “significant conduct issues,” adding: “Trust in this industry has been so eroded, I think it will take at least five years to get it back …” I believe that Mr McEwan is famous for his optimism.

Centre: a casting of ‘Rock Form’ – maybe the Wolverhampton one – apparently ready for departure in the Hepworth studio.

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3 responses to “Mandergate: meanness and magnanimity

  1. Win Sutton August 9, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    I don’t think I will need the Mander Centre, if they don’t care about us. With a little thought most of us can shop elsewhere. There seems no doubt that the Rock Form (Porthcurno) was given for our enjoyment and to give an extra something to our lives. I can’t imagine how anyone can see a work of art purely as a financial asset. In my world integrity comes before business acumen.

  2. Simon Wilson August 13, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    The really interesting question is do the owners of the Centre actually have title to the sculpture. You quote a hint in your original story that Hepworth may have donated the work, which actually seems highly likely in the circumstances, although if so probably the basic cost of casting would have been paid by somebody. So perhaps there were conditions attached to the gift? Where is the paperwork for either gift or purchase? As the recent case of the Tower Hamlets Henry Moore shows, where the council was determined to sell but in the end could not prove ownership, proof of title is essential. Can the owners of the Centre prove that they also own the sculpture?

    • richardawarren August 13, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks, Simon. We’ve been moving towards exactly that question, given that recent enquiries seem to show that the company paid Hepworth only cost price, i.e. the cost of casting, as you suggest. Therefore, effectively a donation. I’ve seen a figure in an accounts book, but beyond that I’m unaware of any other proof of ownership, though it might exist. We’ll follow this up …

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