Retired BBC News Writer and ‘Art-oholic’ Makes Largest Donation in UK Museum’s History

The collection features David Hockney, Alexander Calder, and Sol Lewitt.

Tim Sayer with part of his art collection. Photo: Rosie Hallam, courtesy the Hepworth Wakefield.
Tim Sayer with part of his art collection.
Photo: Rosie Hallam, courtesy the Hepworth Wakefield.

Tim Sayer’s lifelong passion for art will soon be enriching West Yorkshire’s Hepworth Wakefield museum, as the Yorkshire Evening Post reports the collector plans to donate some 400 artworks by big names like David Hockney, Alexander Calder, and Sol Lewitt to the institution.

The retired BBC Radio news writer and his wife Annemarie Norton have spent the last five decades slowly accumulating their art collection, which is displayed on every available surface in their home. Sayer bought his first works, an assortment of 16th-, 17th-, and 18th-century prints, for just 50 pence each at a junk shop in 1962.

“There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to the collection,” Sayer told the Telegraph. “It’s things I love, things that catch my eye, things I can afford and won’t bore me after too long.”

“The collection reflects the discriminating eye of a person of modest means, whose passion for art ‘took precedence over holidays,'” said Tate director Nicholas Serota in a statement.

Tim Sayer with part of his art collection. <br>Photo: Rosie Hallam, courtesy the Hepworth Wakefield.

Tim Sayer with part of his art collection.
Photo: Rosie Hallam, courtesy the Hepworth Wakefield.

The couple made the decision to gift the work to the Hepworth after a 2015 visit to the museum, which is named after artist Barbara Hepworth and is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

“I was amazed by David Chipperfield’s remarkable building with its sequence of ten beautifully-lit gallery spaces, and I realized that it would be the perfect home for my collection,” said Sayer, who describes himself as an “art-oholic,” in a statement. He hopes his generosity will inspire other collectors to give to the country’s regional public institutions.

Despite including work from blue-chip artists like Henry Moore, Anthony Caro, Gerhard Richter, and Bridget Riley, the Sayer collection does not contain a single piece that cost more than more than £7,000 (about $10,000), according to the Telegraph.

The paper calls the donation “one of the largest bequests to any regional British museum in history.” Though the bequest will only take effect following Sayer’s death, a selection of 100 pieces from the collection will go on view at the museum this year in “The Tim Sayer Bequest: A Private Collection Revealed” (April 30–October 9, 2016).

The collection’s public debut will reference its crowded domestic origins in what should be a dramatic departure from the typical “white cube” art show presentation. The couple’s walls are completely covered in artwork, including the slanted ceiling above the stairs, and one of their doors was so weighed down with pictures that the overburdened hinges snapped.

“I have never shown my collection in public before, and it is quite a daunting proposition,” wrote Sayer in an e-mail to artnet News. “I wake up in the middle of the night wondering where everything will be hung in the Hepworth and whether we have selected enough works.”

“I’m sure the house will feel very odd, once all the work has gone,” he added. “Luckily, a couple of artist friends have offered to lend me some of their own paintings for six months.”


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