"Apocalypse in Lilac: Capriccio" (1945) by Marc Chagall
Also known as Ben Uri, the gallery, which is currently living a peripatetic existence while its cramped St John's Wood home is refurbished, has been feted by the art world for its chutzpah in securing the rare 1945 gouache. Despite its humble means, the gallery now joins the Art Institute of Chicago, Musee d'Arte Moderne, Paris, and The Israel Museum as a custodian of the small body of work in which Chagall depicted a Jewish Christ.
Gallery Chairman, David Glasser, spied the small image, signed and titled by the artist as "Apocalypse in Lilac: Capriccio" in a catalogue at a Paris auction house a few months back. Realising the significance of the Holocaust-inspired piece, Glasser sent an application to the Art Fund, which dispatched a trustee to Paris and subsequently agreed to fund the purchase to the tune of €100,000. Yet at a sparsely-attended auction, the painting was sold for just €30,000. Some valuations have the work at over €500,000. Glasser was loathe to mention the purchase until it finally arrived in Britain this weekend, lest the French government intervene.
Ben Uri is currently looking for a new permanent space to showcase the growing collection. Causing such a major splash on the international art market should help when it comes to fundraising.
Apocalypse in Lilac: Capriccio will be on display at Osborne Samuel gallery, Mayfair, from January 8th - 31st. Entry is free.
Disclosure: the editor of Londonist has worked in the past for the gallery mentioned in this article