Film director to leave house and collection to nation

He is in talks with Kensington and Chelsea council who may open it to visitors

LONDON. Retired film director Michael Winner is to open his London house and art collection to visitors, after his death. The ensemble is worth up to £100m. He told The Art Newspaper that discussions are underway about a bequest to Kensington and Chelsea council, and he hopes the arrangements will be concluded by next spring.

Mr Winner, 72, has lived in his house in Melbury Road near Holland Park since 1946, when his father paid £2,000 for a 17-year lease. He says it would now be valued at over £80m. Woodland House was originally designed by Richard Norman Shaw for the artist Sir Luke Fildes and completed in 1876.

There are 600 paintings hanging in the 47-room house. Mr Winner began to collect art in 1960, starting with Dutch golden age paintings, including a Jan Micker Tower of Babel. He also has a fine collection of Victorian and earlier pictures, which are particularly appropriate for the setting. Among these is a Venetian view of the Grand Canal by William James.

Mr Winner’s final artistic passion is British illustrators. There are three E.H. Shepard drawings on the grand staircase, including one of Christopher Robin bumping Winnie the Pooh down the stairs. He also has around 30 works by Arthur Rackham, 20 by Edmund Dulac and a small group by Kay Nielsen. “I’ve got the best collection of British illustrations outside a museum,” he told us.

The plan is to bequeath the Melbury Road house and contents to Kensington and Chelsea council, along with a financial contribution to help pay for its upkeep. It would be opened to visitors, on tours. His recent engagement to Geraldine Lynton-Edwards has certainly not dissuaded him from the idea.

One hurdle that remains is that the house is on a lease until 2046, and the council is only willing to consider taking it over if it has the freehold. Mr Winner told us that he might be willing to buy the freehold if it is a few million pounds, but not if it is more.

Informal discussions have been taking place with Daniel Robbins, curator of Leighton House, owned by the council and in an adjacent street. Leighton House would therefore be the obvious body to take over the running of Mr Winner’s property (it also administers the nearby Linley Sambourne House, former home of the Victorian cartoonist).

If discussions with Kensington and Chelsea prove unsuccessful, Mr Winner plans to approach the National Trust.

Now known primarily as a sometimes vituperative, and amusing, restaurant reviewer, Mr Winner records his recreations as “walking around art galleries, museums, antique shops, eating and being

difficult”. Martin Bailey

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