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Tate launches appeal to buy Turner's Blue Rigi

The Blue Rigi has been sold to an overseas collector, and after last year's loss of the Dark Rigi the pressure is on

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The key to saving Turner’s The Blue Rigi for Tate will be the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which meets on 20 February. It will consider a grant application from the Tate, which has until 20 March to raise nearly £5m.

The Blue Rigi was auctioned at Christie’s on 5 June 2006, and although the estimate was £2m, it sold for nearly three times this sum to a foreign buyer. An export licence was later deferred, to enable a UK purchaser to match the price of £5.94m. With the tax advantages of a sale to a UK public collection, Tate has to raise £4.95m ($9.82m).

Tate is putting in £2m from its own resources, mostly from the insurance pay-out on two Turners which were stolen and subsequently recovered. The Art Fund has offered £500,000, one of its largest grants. An application for just under £2m will be considered by the National Heritage Memorial Fund. On 22 January, Tate and the Art Fund launched a public appeal for £300,000.

Last month, as predicted in The Art Newspaper (December 2006, p10), a display was mounted at Tate Britain around the three finished Rigi watercolours: The Blue Rigi, The Red Rigi (on loan from the National Gallery of Victoria) and The Dark Rigi (sold to a private UK buyer last June). It runs until 20 March, the deadline for the appeal.

If the fundraising is successful, The Blue Rigi could temporarily go on loan to the United States later this year. The Art Newspaper can reveal that a loan request is expected from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, for its major Turner retrospective, which opens on 1 October (until 6 January 2008). This will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. This exhibition was to have taken place in 2005, but was postponed because of problems over insurance cover against terrorism.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Tate launches appeal to buy Turner'

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