Acquisitions Museums Collectors United Kingdom

German count donates graphic art to British Museum

Half the works are by Baselitz, and other artists in the collection include Polke, Penck and Richter

Given by Count Christian Duerckheim: Partisan, 1965, by Georg Baselitz. Photo: reproduced by permission of the artist, © Georg Baselitz

Count Christian Duerckheim, a Cologne industrialist, has donated 34 modern German graphic works to the British Museum. Half are by Georg Baselitz, whom he got to know in the 1970s, and the other artists in the collection include Sigmar Polke, Blinky Palermo, A.R. Penck and Gerhard Richter. Although the value of the donation has not been disclosed, it is estimated to be worth over £1m.

Duerckheim’s wealth comes from investment in biotechnology and he now chairs the Axiogenesis pharmaceutical company. He built up his collection of contemporary German art in a fairly short period, from the mid 1970s to the early 1980s. Two years ago, he sold 34 German works at Sotheby’s for £60m.

As well as the donation to the British Museum, Duerckheim is lending a further 60 works on paper for its exhibition on “Germany Divided: Baselitz and His Generation” (6 February-31 August).

It may come as a surprise that Duerckheim is supporting a UK museum, but he lived in London in the 1960s before moving for a period to New York. The British Museum has a very sparse collection of post-war German graphic art, whereas this is much better represented in German museums, and hence his donation will make a real difference in the UK. Duerckheim has now shifted his interest from German to British art, and is collecting the Young British Artists, including Tracey Emin. Jay Jopling, the owner of London’s White Cube gallery, which represents many of these artists, introduced Duerckheim to the British Museum.

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