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Allen and Beryl Freer: a salutary lesson

Its often and incorrectly assumed that to build a collection you have to be one of the super-rich.

It is true that fine art and high finance have merged and collecting an old Master – or a modern one – is a badge of wealth. However the collection built up by Allen and Beryl Freer, to be auctioned in Christie’s next week, shows it’s not necessary to be a multi-millionaire.

Allen Freer was an English teacher who became an inspector of schools in Manchester. He had a good eye for art, knew several esteemed post-war English artists well, notably Ivon Hitchens and Keith Vaughan and bought from the artists directly.

He amassed a considerable collection in his suburban home including John Nash, younger brother of Paul, David Bomberg, Prunella Clough and those artists already mentioned. He was a  talented water colourist himself.

Not every collector has his eye but most have deeper pockets

This article shows how things can go wrong even if you deal through a reputable dealer – ART DEALER RICHARD GREEN

Dealers who can charge a commission of 50% are understandably not that enamoured of artists who sell ex-studio but it’s a chance to buy earlier and better works than at the annual exhibition of the art dealer showing recent output.

Above all, Allen Freer’s mantra was to acquire only what he wanted to hang and sought no guarantee of increased value.  Another way to collect is to track an artist on his way down as well as one on the way up.

John Minton and Graham Sutherland do not fetch the prices they did in the 1960s, when conversely you could buy a Lucian Freud or Francis Bacon for £100.

Others like Charles Saatchi are attracted to the art student market.

He bought up all the works of one such Glasgow art school  prize winner Jenny Saville, one of which later sold for £9m.      Her graphic depictions of flesh redolentof LucianFreud  are not however such that Allen and Beryl Freer nor indeeed myself would wish toi hang on our walls  .


About Alice Mansfield

A graduate of the Slade, Alice has painted and written about art all her life. With her children now having now grown up and departed the nest, she recently took up sculpture. More Posts