Thursday, March 22, 2007

Collector sells £15m Turner collection to buy Chinese contemporary art

Baron Ullens is acquiring new works for his Beijing gallery
By Georgina Adam |
Posted 22 March 2007
LONDON. The Belgian collector Baron Guy Ullens
has consigned 14 Turner watercolours to auction, because he wants to
focus on contemporary Chinese art. The works, which will be sold at
Sotheby's London on 5 July, are expected to fetch £10m-£15m

Baron Ullens has founded the first private museum for both Chinese and
international contemporary art in Beijing, which is to open in
October. Titled the Ullens Centre for the Arts, it is located in
Beijing's Dashanzi art district and its first chairman is Jan Debbaut,
former head of collections at Tate.

Guy Ullens, whose fortune derives from the food industry,
lived in China in the early years of his career, and collects
classical Chinese landscapes as well as his newest interest,
contemporary Chinese art. He acquired the Turner watercolours over the
past 20 years, some at auction, and some through dealers. Most were
kept in store at the Geneva Free Port and according to Sotheby's
specialist Henry Wemyss, there will be no problems exporting the works
out of the UK should they go to foreign buyers. Indeed, Sotheby's is
taking the group around the world, including Hong Kong and Los
Angeles, before the sale. "Turner is such an international name and
his technique of brush on paper resonates with Chinese buyers, as well
as the more traditional American collectors of his work," says Mr

The Ullens collection covers everything from early, naturalistic
renditions of British coastal scenes to late, impressionistic views in
Switzerland, Germany, France, and Italy. Among the most expensive
works is a large Swiss view, The Lake Lucerne from the Landing Place
at Fluellen, probably 1807-10, estimated at £2m-£3m ($3.95m-$5.91m).
This last appeared at auction in the Wills sale at Sotheby's just two
years ago when it made £1.86m ($3.35m). Another work, Oberwesel, 1840,
carries the same estimate.

Last year saw new Turner records established for an oil and
for a work on paper: a Venetian oil, Giudecca, La Donna della Salute
and San Giorgio sold for $35.86m at Christie's New York while the
watercolour The Blue Rigi sold for £5.83m ($11m) at Christie's London.
Christie's has traditionally dominated the Turner market so the sale
of this collection, which is the biggest to come to auction since the
Munro sales in 1878 and 1879, is a coup for Sotheby's, which offered a
guarantee on the group.

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