£2.7 Million Needed to Save Wedgwood Collection

It's set to be sold off at Christie's.

The UK-based charity Art Fund is leading a public campaign to raise £2.7 million ($4.5 million) in order to save the Wedgwood Collection from auction, the Independent reports. The collection is considered one of the premier assemblages of ceramics in the world and also includes paintings by John Singer Sargent, George Stubbs, Joshua Reynolds, and George Romney, among others. It has been estimated at £15.7 million ($26.1 million).

The majority of that sum has already been raised by the Art Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and other charities. If the public fails to pony up the final £2.7 million in the next three months, however, the collection will head to Christie’s where it will be broken up and sold.

That sale was mandated after Waterford Wedgwood, the company to whose trust the collection belongs, was placed under administration (known as bankruptcy protection in the US) in 2009. While it initially appeared that the collection would be safe from the bankruptcy proceedings, a judge subsequently ruled that it should be sold off in order to meet some of the company’s outstanding debt obligations.

In 1986 Wedgwood merged with Waterford Glass but allegedly lost its way in recent years. According to a report in the New York Times about the bankruptcy announcement, the company failed to innovate at a pace that remotely resembled that of its founder Josiah Wedgwood. Wedgwood developed “Most, if not all, of the common techniques in 20th-century sales — direct mail, money-back guarantees, traveling salesmen, self-service, free delivery, buy one get one free, illustrated catalogues.” The report claims that the closest recent generations had come was to put contemporary prints on Victorian-style pottery designs. 

Regardless of any mismanagement, pundits have argued that the Wedgwood Collection must be saved. Art Fund chairman Chris Smith told the Independent “The Wedgwood Collection is a unique and fundamentally important collection. There is nothing quite like it.”

Local MP Tristram Hunt added: “We need to do all we can to make sure it remains as a source of pride and heritage, as a source of inspiration and a collection that tells the remarkable story of north Staffordshire’s contribution to global history.”

If successful the campaign to save the collection would be the largest sum ever raised by the Art Fund. They recently raised £500,000 in order to help save a Van Dyck self portrait from 1641 (“Van Dyck Self Portrait Bought by London’s National Portrait Gallery Thanks to Public Appeal“). The collection would become part of the V&A’s collection but would remain at the Wedgwood Museum in Staffordshire.

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