February 28, 2008 4:32 am

Art donation prompts plea on philanthropy

More could be done to encourage private philanthropy, the government has been told, following what has been described as the largest and most imaginative gift of art made to museums in Britain.

Anthony d’Offay, a London-based gallery owner, has donated his collection of modern art, worth £125m ($247m), to be jointly owned and managed by the National Galleries of Scotland and the Tate galleries. In return, he received £26.5m, the original cost of the 725 art works, hailed as one of the most important collections of postwar and contemporary international art.

The money, plus £1.5m of costs, was met by £10m grants from Holyrood and Westminster, £7m from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and £1m from The Art Fund independent charity.

David Barrie, director of The Art Fund, said: “We have wonderful tax incentives for the dead – but the living get nothing. We must do more to encourage giving by the living.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, said that for a donation of comparable generosity one would have to go back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the foundation of the Tate and Courtauld collections. “A gift of this magnitude will transform the opportunity to experience contemporary art in the UK,” he said.

Andy Burnham, the culture secretary, said he would invest time and thought over how others might be encouraged to follow this “outstanding example”.

Mr Burnham was chief secretary to the Treasury when he helped to arrange that £14m of tax due from Mr d’Offay would be paid by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The collection will be known as Artist Rooms, and will take the form of 50 rooms of contemporary art by 25 artists, including Joseph Beuys, Gilbert & George, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Ian Hamilton Finlay.

● Growth in the contemporary art market continued to soar on Wednesday night as a Sotheby’s sale of the genre raised £95m, the highest total for a European auction of its kind, writes Anna Metcalfe. Highlights included Francis Bacon’s “Study of Nude with Figure in a Mirror”, which sold for £20m.

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