The Tate Art Gallery wants to return works ‘from the Francis Bacon Archive’ to their donor

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The Tate Art Gallery wants to return a collection of works ‘from the Francis Bacon Archive’ to the donor after historians say the documents are of ‘author unknown’

  • The Tate Art Gallery may return works found in Francis Bacon’s making after ‘credible doubts’ were raised about the document’s origins
  • It was said to be worth £20million when it was donated in 2004 by a friend of the artist
  • But now they say the Tate is offer to return the works to the original owner

The Tate Art Gallery wants to return works – believed to be part of painter Francis Bacon’s archive – to their donor after historians raised ‘credible doubts’ about the documents’ origins.

The 1,000-piece archive includes sketches, magazine and newspaper clippings, books, and photos of Bacon and his friends. It was said to be worth £20million when it was donated to the gallery in 2004 by Barry Joule, a friend of the artist.

But the Tate offered to return the works to the original owner after announcing the work was of “unknown authorship”.

In a statement, the gallery concluded that the material had been “exhausted” of its potential to enhance understanding of Bacon’s art.

Mr. Joule, born in Canada, defended the authenticity of the material. He claims to have considered legal action for what he called the Tate’s failure to do justice to the collection.

A Tate source said yesterday: ‘We have honored the terms of the original acquisition agreement.

The Tate Art Gallery may return works found in Francis Bacon’s making after ‘credible doubts’ were raised about the document’s origins

The collection includes an album of repainted sketches which the Tate describes as “author unknown”; approximately 800 magazine and newspaper clippings, some bearing accidental marks or paint stains; 39 photographs of Bacon and his friends, and a selection of books and other documents.

Barry Joule was living near Bacon’s home and studio in South Kensington, London, when they met in 1978. They became close friends and he helped Bacon with his work until Bacon’s death. the artist at the age of 82 in 1992.

Bacon is best known for his paintings of screaming popes, crucifixions, and often brutal portraits. His painting by friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud fetched £89million in 2013, making it the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction.

In its statement yesterday, the Tate said some of the photographs and written records appeared in an archival exhibit and were made available for publication.

Barry Joule was living near Bacon's home and studio in South Kensington, London, when they met in 1978. He donated several of the artist's works to the Tate after his death.

Barry Joule was living near Bacon’s home and studio in South Kensington, London, when they met in 1978. He donated several of the artist’s works to the Tate after his death.

He added: “The entire gift has also been researched by art historians, and this research has raised credible doubts about the nature and quality of the material.

“By itself, the material does not lend itself to any meaningful exhibition and any potential it held for enhancing public understanding of Bacon’s art has been exhausted.

“It was therefore considered unsuitable for safekeeping in the Tate archives. Initially, it was returned to the donor, in accordance with the donor’s wishes.

In an essay on the material, Sophie Pretorius, archivist of the Francis Bacon estate, last year quoted a former senior curator at the Tate who thought the hands that applied the marks “may not have included Bacon at a substantial degree”.

Ms Pretorius concluded that “for researchers to spend time analyzing a collection of works that are not by Francis Bacon is a waste of resources”.

Earlier this year, Mr Joule reportedly said he was so frustrated with the Tate’s inability to display it properly that he canceled plans to donate another hundred items to the gallery. Instead, he would like the work to go to the Center Pompidou Paris in France.

The Art Journal, which first revealed the Tate action yesterday, reported the archive was ‘apparently valued at around £20million’ at the time of the donation.

The Tate source said the estimated value of £20million ‘doesn’t come from us’ and there was no mention of an estimated value in Tate’s original announcement of the gift in 2004 .

At the time, the Tate praised “the generous gift of Barry Joule” and said it would “undertake to study, photograph and catalog the collection over the next three years, before displaying these objects and to make them available for loan”.

Bacon is best known for his paintings of screaming popes, crucifixions and often brutal portraits

Bacon is best known for his paintings of screaming popes, crucifixions and often brutal portraits

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