Wednesday, 10 October 2018

William Roberts.



In around 1965 or 66, I was managing a small West End gallery called The Fine Art Gallery in Devonshire Street W1.

One afternoon a man arrived with a large roll of paper. He explained that it was one of six large drawings that he wished to sell, and that they were by Mark Gertler.

He unravelled the drawing (it was about 4 by 6 ft). It was of a naked man, in the 'Vorticism' style, and was drawn in terracotta pastel.

At once I could see that his attribution to Gertler was incorrect, but asked him how much he wanted for them. I think he was asking £50 for the six, and I said I'd buy them. He promised to return with all six drawings within a few days.

On the day he arrived with the drawings I was out, and my boss Miklos Vilag bought them in my stead. When I returned I saw them in the front room of the gallery, and went to give Miklos the £50; he declined my money and said that he'd bought them for himself. As you might imagine, I wasn't happy, and we had quite a heated argument.

I grabbed my things, and instantly resigned.

I had recently attended a William Roberts exhibition at The Tate, and had recognised the drawing I'd seen as being a sketch for one of his larger paintings. These were valuable drawings, and I'd been deprived of their ownership. I suppose as the Gallery owner Miklos had a right to buy them, but I was understandably bloody angry. In fact; I still am.

I have just seen that a Roberts painting was recently sold at Sotheby's for over £1 Million. I wonder what the drawings are now worth?



22 comments:

  1. That does seem unfair. Were you buying them for yourself or for the gallery? Perhaps as an employee, you weren't in a position to buy them yourself but only for the gallery. Interesting work, at least.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was buying them for myself. I'd had an understanding with my boss that I could both buy and sell at the gallery, but when it came to it, he failed me. As I said above; it was his gallery so I suppose he had the right.

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. My life has been filled with 'if onlys'.

      Delete
  3. Interesting story. In 2008 when I was an MA student the owner of the Dover Street Gallery invited me to take my portfolio along. When I arrived she came out of her office and told me that she had changed her gallery policy and would be concentrating on Asian art and no longer wished to look at my portfolio. She then swung round and went back to her office and slammed the door. The gallery assistant then looked through my work and arranged with me to buy two drawings which I would get framed and return with in a week's time. When I returned I was told the gallery assistant no longer worked there. She later got in touch with me and we concluded the transaction. She told me she had been given instant dismissal the day I went in for buying my work above the gallery owners head.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The day I was offered the job at The Fine Art Gallery, I'd actually gone in to try to sell some work. He didn't want anything but offered me the job. The moment I accepted he called downstairs and shouted "Richard (?), you're fired". I felt terrible.

      Delete
  4. Oh well ..... c’est la vie ...... you’re probably happier without them ! All of that money would probably have led you to a different life that might not have been so idyllic. XXXX

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have nothing against money; it might even have made me happier, although that would have been difficult.

      Delete
  5. At least you walked out. Sounds as though you would have left rather quickly anyway. Not the greatest of bosses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He was quite fun, and I met some amazing people during my time there, but he could turn on you in an instant.

      Delete
  6. I expect the signature on the drawing gave you a hint that they were not Roberts? That is typical dealer behaviour, I'm afraid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They were unsigned,but even my basic knowledge told me they weren't by Gertler.

      Delete
  7. Artistic temperament?
    Must rankle still though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does, especially as it was one of several dodgy deals where I lost out.

      Delete
  8. The trading of art is a strange and curious thing. I was standing at an Opening in, I think, 1964 next to John Moores looking at 'Peter Getting out of Nick's Pool' when he pronounced that the next Big Name would be David Hockney. The second he made that statement it was a certainty. Rumour had it he had already bought DH's earlier works.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It must have been Kasmin; he made a fortune on the back of Hockney in those early days.

      Delete
  9. I guess the biggest loser was the guy selling them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think he was happy having the full price he'd asked. However, if he'd come in and asked us to make an offer, he would probably have left with considerable more.

      Delete
  10. Cro, I've left a reply to you on your reply about shoes on Rachel's blog. Trying on trousers is the nightmare! Don't take my word for it ;-) ciao, G.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm afraid I have a total phobia about shop changing rooms (and public loos); I never go near them.

      You're right about trousers. The last I bought were some very cheap jeans from my supermarket. I had to estimate my size, take them home, and try them on. When I found that they fitted perfectly, I returned to the supermarket and bought a second pair. Hopefully that will be my final trouser buying nightmare.

      Delete
  11. Why not buy online? M&S and LandsEnd both good for men's trousers - and women's too!

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...