Hertfordshire County Council raises £469,000 after selling 450 works of art

More than 450 artworks from Hertfordshire County Council’s art collection have been snapped up in a series of three public auctions – for a total of £469,282.

The county council - which started to build-up the collection in 1949 - took the controversial decision to sell-off or give away the bulk of the artworks in 2017, and the last of the pieces earmarked for sale were sold at auction last Thursday.

HCC said the artworks, initially purchased to be loaned to schools, had become less relevant to an evolving curriculum, and the council no longer had the resources to properly conserve the many pieces in storage.

The money raised will be used to improve the condition of remaining items and increase public visibility of the council's nationally significant sculptures.

Councillor Terry Douris, executive member for education, libraries and localism, said: "Now we can look towards the restoration of our retained pieces and improving accessibility so everyone can start enjoying these pieces."

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Overall, John Tunnard's Brandis '44 fetched the highest price, selling for £37,000 - well over its estimate of £10,000 to £15,000 - at Cambridge-based Cheffins auction house in March.

Anne Redpath's Blue Plate sold for £31,000 - three times its lower estimate of £10,000.

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A pastel by Scottish artist Joan Eardley raised £31,000 and Keith Vaughan's Grey Shore Seascape was sold for £27,000.

In later auctions estimates for the majority of artworks ranged between around £30 and £200.

Brett Tryner, associate at Cheffins, said: "We have been delighted with the way the selected works have sold, and all lots offered found new homes.

"The final sale was the more affordable pictures in the collection. The highlight on the day was undoubtedly the Frances Richards embroidered picture, Mother and Child, which made £1,300 despite not being in pristine condition."

The county council has retained a "manageable" collection of 167 works that are "notable or local important works", including by Herts artists Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

The retained works include the four most valuable items in the council's collection, with an estimated value of £21.86 million.

Other pieces are being offered to schools, museums and other interested local organisations.

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