There is an unexpected twist to the saga of Turner’s The Dark Rigi, which both the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Tate in London were trying to buy. Both public collections were outmanoeuvred, with leading London dealer Simon Dickinson selling the watercolour masterpiece to an anonymous private UK buyer for £2.7m ($5.1m). This was just hours before he was officially informed that the Tate was trying to match the export deferral price established by the earlier Washington sale (The Art Newspaper, September 2006, pp1, 3).
Last month Mr Dickinson told The Art Newspaper that “as far as we are aware, the new owner intends to lend the Turner to a major public institution”. No further information is available on which gallery is being approached with the loan offer.
Mr Dickinson also reiterated that he regards the recent sale as a matching offer arrangement “made under the Ridley Rule”, which allows a private UK buyer to acquire an export-deferred work of art. The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, which administers the export system for the UK government, takes a very different view, and it repeated its conviction that the sale is an ordinary commercial arrangement, unconnected with the export licence deferral. This has important implications, since if it is deemed to be an ordinary sale, then it could represent a breach of Mr Dickinson’s contract with the National Gallery in Washington.