Tate and Scottish National Gallery in talks to acquire d’Offay collection

Legendary dealer is thought to own 700 works worth £100m


Legendary contemporary art dealer Anthony d’Offay is expected to offer his collection jointly to the Tate and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. This would represent the largest addition of post-war works to ever come to the two national institutions. An inside source told us that if all were on show, they would require 60 rooms—which gives an idea of the sheer scale of the collection. There has been speculation that it comprises 700 works, worth £100m.

Mr d’Offay, who retired in 2002 as one of London’s leading dealers in contemporary art, has tended to collect his favourite artists in depth, with a view to showing them in single rooms. He has often acquired works which he feels are particularly effective together in a display, as with Beuys, Kiefer, Kounellis, LeWitt, Nauman and Richter. In other instances he has been keen to show the development of an artist’s career, as with Arbus, Hirst, Koons, Long, Mapplethorpe, Mueck, Ruscha, Viola and Warhol. His guiding principle has been to choose works so that the experience of a room as a whole is more powerful than the sum of the parts.

The proposal under discussion is that the acquisition would have an element of both sale and gift, which means that the Tate and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art would still have to raise a very substantial sum. The Heritage Lottery Fund is an obvious source of money, although it can only support works more than ten years old and it would unlikely be able to put up more than a small proportion of the cost. In Edinburgh, an application would probably be made to the Scottish Executive (government). The other challenge would be finding the space to display the d’Offay collection.

Serious discussions began last year with the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and Mr d’Offay has good links with gallery director Richard Calvocoressi. Mr d’Offay also has personal ties with Scotland, since he studied in Edinburgh and now has a house in the Highlands, in addition to his London residence. Two plans are under consideration to find extra display space for his works. The first is to turn a former factory in Leith, the port of Edinburgh, into an art centre. More likely, however, is the construction of an extension to the existing Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which is in an 1820s mansion just outside the city centre.

More recently, the idea developed of a partnership with Tate, and the plan was raised with its trustees in May. Two months later the proposed extension to Tate Modern was announced, for completion in 2012. This would provide considerable more space, part of which could be used to display the d’Offay works.