The waxwork tableau of Sir Arthur Gilbert in his office, which was displayed in a side room in Somerset House until the Gilbert Collection closed in January 2008, has been transferred to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) on long-term loan. It is in store, and will not be presented in the new Gilbert Galleries, which open on 30 June. A museum spokeswoman said that the waxwork “could be used in future displays about collectors and collecting”.
The lifesize figure of Sir Arthur, informally clothed in tennis shorts, was commissioned by his second wife, Marjorie Haworth. In the tableau, Sir Arthur is seated in a replica of his Beverly Hills office, surrounded by the paraphernalia of his everyday life. For visitors to Somerset House, it was a somewhat surrealist experience to encounter the donor.
Born in London, Arthur Gilbert moved to Los Angeles in 1949, becoming a property developer. He began collecting gold and silver works, micro-mosaics and gold boxes, ranging from the 16th to 19th centuries. He initially lent these to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, but later became dissatisfied with the arrangement. The collection was then given to a London-based charitable trust, which put them on display at Somerset House in 2000. On show were 800 items, worth over £100m. Sir Arthur died the following year, aged 88.
Half of the 800 works on loan to the V&A will be displayed in a suite of four rooms. The Gilbert Collection Trust has funded the £1.5m refurbishment of the V&A galleries and will provide an endowment to care for the collection.