A famous collector sells up: punitive Spanish export laws induce me to sell, says Jaime Ortiz-Patiño

Golf is the new passion of millionaire who has sold Impressionists and French decorative art to the tune of $91.48 million since 1989



“If I cannot have my objects around me, there is no point in keeping them”, explained Jaime Ortiz-Patiño. So on 21 and 22 April Sotheby’s New York are selling his outstanding collection of Paul de Lamerie silver, rare books and manuscripts, Chinese export tobacco leaf porcelain and French furniture, all of which he kept in his London home.

“I am now living mainly at Valderrama in Sotogrande, Spain, and it is impossible to bring these objects into the country. The Spanish have punitive taxation laws: if something stays in the country for more than two years it cannot be exported, which takes away its international value—and I have to think of my children’s inheritance. In addition, the climate is very humid and salty, unsuitable for both books and silver. I am extremely sad to be selling the collection, but if I cannot enjoy it I would prefer some one else to”, he explained.

Jaime Ortiz-Patiño comes from a dynasty of renowned collectors. He is the grandson of Bolivian “Tin-king”, Simon I Patiño whose love of art inspired his children. His father, Jorge Ortiz Linares was the Bolivian ambassador to France after World War II and began the collection of rare books and manuscripts. His mother, Graziella Patiño, formed an exquisite collection of French eighteenth-century decorative arts. His brother, George Ortiz, is a fanatical and highly knowledgeable collector of antiquities whose collection was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1993.

Brought up in France, Mr Ortiz-Patiño has a European’s understanding and appreciation of the decorative arts. “I have always lived with beautiful things”, he explained. “One of my earliest memories is being told not to rock on a dining-room chair because it was eighteenth-century and the legs would snap.” As my parents collected French silver, I decided I would collect English. De Lamerie appealed to me because it was in the style of contemporary French silver, plain and not too overladen with decoration. For someone whose eye had been educated by French silver it was of comparable quality.”

The thirty-three lots of silver span almost the whole period of De Lamerie, the most celebrated English goldsmith’s, output (he began independent work in 1712 and died in 1751) and carry a low estimate of $4.3 million. The two outstanding pieces are the Walpole inkstand and the Drury Lowe tureen. The former (estimate $800,000-1,200,000) was commissioned by Sir Robert Walpole in 1745, the engraved decoration on it relating to the Walpole Salver in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is believed to have been engraved by Hogarth.

The Drury-Lowe tureen is based on a French pot à l’oille. It is a baroque extravaganza, the lid chased and applied with all the ingredients of a game soup, wild boar, dead sheep and game and vegetables. The handles are modelled from live crayfish, the finial is a sprouting cabbage and the feet are dolphins (estimate £500,000-800,000). Its pair is in the Metropolitan Museum. This one has had its export licence suspended by the British authorities and it will therefore be auctioned separately in London on 4 June, unless a buyer resident in England makes an acceptable offer for it beforehand. English silver does not achieve the same prices as the greatest French pieces. A similar tureen by De Lamerie’s contemporary Thomas Germain fetched a world record for silver at $10.3 million at Sotheby’s New York in November 1996. The consignor was George Ortiz.

The majority of the objects are simple utilitarian pieces, for Mr Ortiz-Patiño wanted silver that he could use and which was in the finest condition—one of the baskets still equals its original scratch weight. All are distinguished by the unmistakeable De Lamerie quality: the sauce tureens are just that little bit heavier and gutsier than any others: the rim of the plates is decorated not just with a leaf motif but one that turns back on itself; the marvellously tactile tankards are unparalleled in English silver design. Mr Ortiz-Patiño insisted these be measured to make sure they were a half-pint and a pint size before he agreed to buy them.

He has a very matter of fact attitude towards the exquisite things he has acquired. “I have never hoarded objects. I buy beautiful things because they give me enormous pleasure to use.” The silver was kept in a traditional baize-lined cupboard and brought out for dinner-parties. There are thirty-six plates along with six large salts and a pair of tureens complete with ladles from a service supplied to the Earl of Thanet in 1743.

Jaime Ortiz-Patiño’s collections come and go. In May 1989, his sale of Impressionist paintings totalled $67.8 million and in 1992, other silver and French furniture from his collection fetched £23.68 million. According to the silver dealer, Titus Kendall, who helped him to form the collection of De Lamerie, “Mr Ortiz-Patiño becomes completely involved in the subject he is pursuing at any one time, but has no concept of hoarding things once they are no longer a part of his life.”

Jaime Ortiz-Patino explained, “I can never go to sales myself as I would be completely out of control and bid anything to secure what I wanted. I always send someone with a price limit. I lost the Drury Lowe Tureen the first time round but things nearly always come on the market again. No collection is permanent; objects come and go. If I really want something, I never give up.”

Valderrama, where Mr Ortiz-Patiño now lives, boasts the finest golf course in Europe, which was recently the location for the Ryder Cup. According to Mr Kendall, he is so passionate about the course that he is up at five in the morning discussing grass types and checking the greens with the greensman. He is now pursuing his golfing collection with the same dedication he once applied to eighteenth-century decorative arts. “I have just lost a major piece”, he explained, “I left a bid for twice the estimate but it went to someone else and I am extremely annoyed.”

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Punitive Spanish export laws induce me to sell, says Jaime Ortiz-Patiño'