One of the buyers at Hansons is claiming the sale should not have proceeded as the late owner – life model June Furlong (1930-2020) – had pledged her collection to a museum.
Furlong, who was painted by artists such as Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach – and even John Lennon – died on November 20 last year aged 90.
The pictures cleared from her Liverpool home after she died included works by her long-term companion George Jardine (1920-2003).
The 59 lots were sold on December 11, just three days after Furlong’s funeral, raising a hammer total of £42,000. The sale was reported in Art Market, ATG no 2476.
Charles Thomson, an artist who knew Furlong, believes she had pledged her entire collection to the Williamson Art Gallery in the Wirral by signing a ‘gift document’ to that effect six months before she died. He had informed the saleroom of its existence before the sale. However, an official notice of dispute from Wirral Council that would have been required in order to stop the auction was not filed.
Auction house owner Charles Hanson told ATG that the firm had full authority and legal consent from the executor to proceed with the sale.
Although no dispute was raised, three items from the consignment were withdrawn after a request from a curator at the Williamson. It was deemed that they best belonged in an archive collection.
What will happen to a further group of Jardine works from the Furlong collection which had already been transferred to the Williamson prior to her death remains unclear.
A Wirral Council spokesperson said: “For a number of years, Wirral Museums Service has had responsibility for a collection of more than 100 works by Wirral artist George Jardine (1920-2002) – on loan from Miss June Furlong, who was Jardine’s principal legatee. Miss Furlong died in November 2020 without having made a legal will.
“We believe it was Miss Furlong’s wish, shortly before she died, that these works of art belonging to her should enter the permanent collection of the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum. It is on this basis that we will be looking to discuss the future of this collection with Miss Furlong’s family, through their appointed legal representative.
“In relation to the works that were held in Miss Furlong’s home, we received no formal notification that these were to be auctioned in December and the council did not consider it appropriate to contest the sale at that time.”
Thomson told ATG that Jardine works he bought at the Hansons auction would not be lost to the public and were destined for an art charity or museum.
He has also launched a petition demanding Wirral Council “either retrieve the auctioned work or to claim the money made by the unauthorised sale of this art. It is also up to them to secure the work currently stored at the Williamson and ensure this is not sold as well.”