Secret agent sent on mission to bring back two priceless works of art for museum. The mission did not involve breaking into a secure location to steal the two paintings by English artist Joseph Wright and return them to Derby, the city of his birth. Instead the agent was sent to New York by the Derby Museum Trust to bid for the paintings of Sir Richard Arkwright’s mills and Willersley Castle at an auction at Christie’s. The museum chose not to register its interest in buying the paintings for fear of alerting art dealers who may well have tried to get hold of the paintings to sell them on to the Museum at a premium price. So the Museum hired a secret agent, who was sent to Christies under strict instructions to only put in a bid if someone else did. Meanwhile the staff at the museum stayed back in Derby and watched the auction online. Jonathan Wallis from Derby Museum recalls “We were sat there with a beer not sure whether to open it and celebrate or open it and commiserate. It was quite nail biting. We were watching and the auctioneer said ‘is that the final bid? It’s with you madam on the telephone’ and we knew our guy was in the room. It went right down to the wire. He just chipped in at the end and the auctioneer said ‘new bidder in the room. Sold to you sir’.” What’s more the paintings were bought for less than the guide price. “This is great for us to do this for the people of Derbyshire and actually bring back a piece of their heritage,” Mr Wallis said. The paintings, which are believed to have been commissioned by Sir Richard Arkwright, a pioneer of the industrial revolution, fill a gap in the Derby Museum’s collection, as they are the only examples of Derbyshire landscapes by Wright. Sounds like the Museum is the Wright home for the two works of art.
September 25, 2016