Deaccessioning United Kingdom

Geographical society knocks third off price of Australian paintings in controversial sell-off

Will UK museum make a bid after Australian collector haggles successfully?

Thomas Baines’s works are now on offer for 35% less than original price

The Royal Geographical Society in London has reduced by more than a third the price of a collection of early paintings of Australia that it is controversially selling. The 35% price reduction, from £4.2m to £2,750,000, means that a UK buyer now has the opportunity to acquire the paintings made by Thomas Baines during the 1855-57 expedition to northern Australia. The move by the geographical society comes after an original agreement to sell the works at the higher price to an Australian buyer fell through, which we reported earlier this month.

The collection of 21 paintings and nearly 300 watercolours and drawings were put on the market by the geographical society to raise money to plug a deficit in its pension scheme. Last year it provisionally sold the collection to an anonymous buyer, which we revealed to be the Perth-based investor Kerry Stokes. In an unusual development, Stokes renegotiated the price after a UK export licence had been issued. He has got the society to reduce it by 35% and so a fresh export licence application was then required.

A geographical society spokesman says that the lower price was due to “currency fluctuations between sterling and the Australian dollar, the general softening of the Australian art market during 2013 and the buyer’s own changed circumstances”.

The export licence is deferred until 21 November, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced today, 22 August. Last year no UK buyer tried to match the price, but with a lower price an institution such as the National Maritime Museum in London might consider trying to raise the funds.

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