Turner’s The Blue Rigi has been saved, thanks to £550,000 from the general public and grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and Tate. If £2.45 million had not been secured by March 20 2007, the painting, which is one of Turner’s most famous watercolours, would have left the country. Last June The Blue Rigi was sold at auction for £5.8million, making it the most expensive British watercolour ever sold. It was offered to Tate for a reduced price of £4.95 million and Culture Minister David Lammy placed a temporary export ban on it until March 20 2007 while a campaign was launched to raise funds.
After Tate pledged £2 million of its own funds towards the masterpiece, it was left to other groups to find the remaining £2.95 million. In one of the biggest fundraising campaigns to date, the Art Fund pledged £500,000 and over 11,000 people responded to a ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ appeal launched by The Art Fund and Tate, raising £550,000 (www.artfund.org/savebluerigi). The ‘fund of last resort’ for heritage at risk the NHMF subsequently underwrote the acquisition of the painting to a maximum of £1.95 million, thus saving it for the nation. The NHMF’s grant represents one third of its current annual budget of £5 million.
‘There is nothing like The Blue Rigi,’ said Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota. ‘It is a truly extraordinary work of ineffable beauty. I would like to thank every member of the public who has generously given money towards our campaign, and The Art Fund for orchestrating the process. I am delighted that the National Heritage Memorial Fund has recognised the watercolour’s importance and supported our collective determination to save this work from leaving the country.’
David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: ‘There is a powerful message here for our politicians ? the public care about great works of art and they want to see them acquired by our public collections.’
Members of the public can enjoy The Blue Rigi until March 20 in London’s Tate Britain. As part of the fundraising campaign, Tate has united for the first time ever The Blue Rigi, The Dark Rigi and The Red Rigi,Tate Britain until; For more information visit www.tate.org.uk.