The bronze chandelier had originally been commissioned by the art patron and collector Peter Watson from Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) sometime between 1946-47. It had hung in the offices of literary and cultural magazine Horizon in Bloomsbury until the venture closed in 1950. It later ended up in the antiques shop of Elizabeth Denton in Marylebone but without attribution and was bought by artist John Craxton (1922-2009).
The artist purchased it from the shop in the late 1960s for just £250 and it hung in his family’s Hampstead home until his death in 2009. It was only in 2021 that it was confirmed to be by Giacometti following verification by the Fondation Giacometti in Paris.
It was then offered Christie’s 20th/21st Century London Evening sale on February 28 and sold for £2.4m at Christie’s (£2.9m including fees).
It has now been temporarily blocked from export by the Arts and heritage minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay.
The minister’s decision follows the advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA).
Andrew Hochhauser KC, Chair RCEWA said: "Giacometti’s bronze chandelier was commissioned in about 1947 by Peter Watson, a significant figure in cultural life in the mid-20th century, a great patron of the arts in Britain and the co-founder of the literary and cultural magazine, Horizon, for its new offices in Bedford Square. It is an exceptional realisation of Giacometti’s work in the decorative arts and is the only known UK decorative art commission by the leading 20th century sculptor.
"It offers outstanding opportunities for the study of this neglected area of Giacometti’s output and the meeting of European avant-garde art and decorative arts in the mid-twentieth century."
A UK institution has until November 12 to make an offer to raise the £2.92m (plus VAT of £104,000) for the chandelier.
Separately, funding of £17,640 is needed for a group of botanical drawings.
The 38 original drawings of flowers by Simon Taylor (1742-96) were sold at auction at Sotheby’s on November 29, 2022 and subsequently an export licence was applied for. However, this has temporarily been blocked while UK museums are given a chance to match the £17,640 price tag (the buyer’s premium inclusive price).
Arts and heritage minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay placed the export bar on the collection in the hope they can remain in the UK for public study and education.
The minister’s decision follows the independent advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest.
Committee member Peter Barber said: “The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew are universally recognised as one of this country’s greatest glories. They were the fruit of a partnership between George III’s mother, Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, Dowager Princess of Wales, and his tutor and later prime minister, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute.
“But very little survives to show what plants were originally to be found in the gardens. An opportunity has now arisen to save some precious depictions of these plants for the nation.
“Taylor’s 38 finely executed watercolours, commissioned by Lord Bute, are much more than merely pretty pictures. Part of a now dispersed collection of 15 volumes containing nearly 700 paintings, they have the potential to add significantly to our knowledge of Kew in its earliest days.
“I hope they can find a home in this country where they can most easily and appropriately be studied and enjoyed, and perhaps be joined in the future by more volumes, or at least watercolours, as they emerge.”
The drawings are a significant record of the plants in the garden prior to the involvement of Joseph Banks who became Kew’s first unofficial director in 1768.
The volume was with Lord Bute until his death and sold at Sotheby’s on May 8, 1794. It was then in the Library Collection of Henry Rogers Boughton, 2nd Baron Fairhaven (1900-73), from where it was sold by Sotheby’s last year.
The decision on the export licence application for the drawings will be deferred until September 11.