Tuesday, March 4, 2014

London Old Master dealers Agnew's to continue under new ownership

Agnew’s, the long-established international fine art dealers, which closed its Albemarle Street gallery to the public last year, has been acquired by new owners and will continue trading under the direction of Anthony Crichton-Stuart, former head of Christie’s Old Master Paintings department in New York and subsequently a director of Noortman Master Paintings. 

The new ownership will not end the Agnew family's connection with the business, however. Julian Agnew, the sixth generation to work for the family firm, and Christopher Kingzett, a former director (shown seated extreme left), will remain as part-time consultants. 

Julian Agnew commented: “I am delighted by the successful sale of the company, and that Agnew’s can now look forward to celebrating its 200-year anniversary in 2017”.

Lord Snowden's 1965 photograph of Agnew's directors (above) shows (left to right): Richard Kingzett, Colin Agnew, Hugh Agnew, Geoffrey Agnew, Evelyn Joll. It reveals the extent to which the business endured as a tightly-knit family unit. (The two non-Agnew directors, Kingzett and Joll, both married into the Agnew clan). 

The firm was founded in Manchester in 1817, opening a branch in London in 1860, and has a proud history with some of the most discerning private collectors and museums amongst its international clientele.  These have included collectors such as the 1st Lord Iveagh and the Rothschild and Pierpont Morgan families and, in more recent years, Paul Mellon, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza and the great Norton Simon.  

It has made sales to the national galleries in London, Edinburgh and Washington and, amongst many other American museums, the Metropolitan and the Getty, as well as the leading public collections of continental Europe, Australia and Japan.  From its beginnings the firm rapidly became a leader in the field of British paintings and watercolours, contributing in a major way to the growth of the market for contemporary British art in the nineteenth century.  

From the 1870s until the present day, it has been known internationally for handling the works of major artists including Giotto, Raphael, Gentile da Fabriano, Fra Angelico and Sassetta from Italy , northern painters Dürer, Rembrandt, Rubens and Van Dyck, Spanish masters including El Greco, Velázquez and Murillo, and from France, Poussin, Claude, Boucher and Fragonard. British art has always been a speciality with Reynolds, Gainsborough, Constable and, above all, Turner strongly represented.  In 1895 William Agnew was created a baronet and in 1973 Geoffrey Agnew received a knighthood for services to the arts.

Anthony Crichton-Stuart

The new owners, led by Boston collector and investor Cliff Schorer, have purchased the holding company of Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd. from members of the Agnew family.  The purchase includes the stock of works of art, an important library, and an extensive photographic archive. It will be interesting to see whether the new owners will see fit to digitise the archive.

Anthony Crichton-Stuart (right) said:  “The Agnew’s name is strong and well respected and we aim to build upon this legacy. We are confident that the company’s historic reputation for connoisseurship and fair dealing will remain one of its greatest assets and that this, combined with the dynamic and progressive approach of our new team, will secure the future of the firm well into the twenty-first century. Agnew’s will continue to acquire and present great works of art to museums and private collectors, whilst maintaining relationships with the company’s many existing clients as well as attracting a new clientele.  We are currently looking for appropriate premises for the gallery but in the meantime we are operating from 13 Old Bond Street, London.”

Following reports that the Albemarle Street gallery was to close and the board was considering winding down the business, the new owners approached Agnew’s at TEFAF, Maastricht, last year.  The board continued the business while negotiations took place, and these were successfully concluded in late 2013.