The controversial sale of 24 Chinese ceramics from Croydon’s Riesco collection has failed to reach the estimated target of £9-13 million.
Only 17 out of the 24 pieces were auctioned off through Christie’s in Hong Kong this week, raising a total of £8.2 million. This figure, which is much lower than anticipated, potentially leaves the council with £6.45 million after auction house fees.
A council spokesperson said: “The council is pleased that 17 of the items sold, some of these for more than was expected. This will provide significant investment money for culture in Croydon.”
They added: “The amount we will make from the sales is still being collated, and a final total may be some days away yet. We will be considering our options regarding any unsold objects.”
Chi Fan Sang, Specialist of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art at Christie’s Hong Kong, said: “We were honoured to have been instructed to offer the R.F.A. Riesco Collection this season, not seen on the market for many decades. In particular, we were pleased with the results of the top lot of the sale.”
The auction, announced in June this year, sparked controversy among members of the local community and the London art scene, who accused the council of acting irresponsibly for selling off the borough’s most valuable and rare antiques.
The Museum Association (MA) also criticised the decision to sell off the collection and expelled Croydon Council from future membership, after the council resigned in September faced with disciplinary action for breeching the code of ethics.
Mark Taylor, director of the Museum Association, said: “If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. This is not about the money raised from the auction. It’s the principle of selling something designed for the people of Croydon.”
On his blog, Maurice Davies, head of policy and communication at the MA, named Tuesday’s auction “a tragic day for museums”.
According to the council, the sale of the ceramics was sanctioned to raise money to fund part of the £27 million refurbishment of Croydon’s arts and culture venue, Fairfield Halls.
Christie’s had estimated that the complete collection would bring in between £9 million to £13 million. The remaining seven pieces are valued between £3.4 million to £5.3 million of that total estimate.