The London Borough of Croydon has chosen Christie’s as the auctioneers for its controversial sale of 24 Chinese works of art from its collection.
The works, which feature Ming, Qing and Early Period ceramics,
were acquired by local businessman and collector Raymond Riesco
(1877-1964) before entering the council's collection on his
But following the council's decision in
July to sell the pieces and use the funds to help redevelop
their Fairfield Halls entertainment venue (which has been
criticised by, among others, Arts Council England), Christie's will
now offer them for sale in Hong Kong on November 27.
The announcement of the auction also points to the potential
value of the works. Christie's say they expect 24 works to raise in
excess of HK$113m (£9m).
The items include a number of blue and white pieces, and the
leading lot from the consignment is a rare Xuande mark and period
double-gourd moonflask, Ming Dynasty 1426-1435, estimated at
A Xuande-marked flask of the same form with the same decoration
and similar distinctive rectangular foot is in the National Palace
Museum, Taipei and two similar flasks from the collection of the
Palace Museum, Beijing are also known. A flask identical to the
Riesco vessel, including a Xuande mark, is in the collection of Sir
Percival David, now on view in the British Museum.
The rest of the Riesco collection, comprising 206 other works
spanning the Neolithic period to the 19th century, will remain in
the Riesco Gallery in the Croydon Clocktower where they are on free
Christie's chairman and international head of Asian Art Jonathan
Stone said: "We are pleased to have been selected to auction these
ceramics following a competitive tender process resulting from the
decision to sell part of the collection."
Croydon Council's cabinet member for children, families and
learning, Councillor Tim Pollard, said: "This has been a difficult
decision to make and one we have not taken lightly. The high
insurance and security costs of maintaining this collection do not
provide value for money to Croydon taxpayers. Instead the council
intends to get the maximum financial return on the small portion of
the collection being sold to invest in Croydon's cultural
infrastructure, and we believe Christie's offers the best
opportunity to do this."
However, opponents of the sale believe it contravenes the
Museums Association's code of ethics to sell works which were
donated to the public. They have also raised concerns that other
councils could follow suit in de-accessioning works held in their
Interestingly, the Christie's press release for the auction
states: "The collection came into the ownership of the London
Borough of Croydon when the council purchased Mr Riesco's home,
Heathfield House, and surrounding land in Addington, South London,
in 1964." Assuming the collection was bought (rather than donated),
then the likelihood of Croydon Council's museums service losing
their accrediation with Arts Council England would seemingly be