Top 10 London Art Philanthropists

By Londonist Last edited 85 months ago
Top 10 London Art Philanthropists

The recent cuts to Arts funding are well documented. The Guardian have a whole section devoted to the issue. As public money recedes, donations from individuals and companies are needed more than ever, to ensure our city retains its reputation as a world centre of arts. There are plenty of precedents, as this roundup of London philanthropists shows:

1. Sir John Paul Getty II KBE (1932-2003)
The son of the American oil magnate J. Paul Getty and one-time jet-setter hippie, John Paul II was an Anglophile who lived on Cheyne Walk, Chelsea for many years and went to cricket matches with Mick Jagger. He gave a staggering £50 million to the National Gallery. Other recipients of donations were Lords Cricket Ground, the British Museum, St Paul's Cathedral and the Imperial War Museum. The British Film Institute received £40-50 million, money that enabled it to start the renovation of its massive but crumbling archive.

2. John Davan Sainsbury, Baron Sainsbury of Preston Candover (b. 1927)
Has recently made a £25 million donation to the British Museum. The Conservative peer is contributing towards the £125 million new World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre, which will create 1,000 sq m of exhibition space and a state-of-the-art laboratory for examining and restoring exhibits. In 1985, Lord Sainsbury and his two brothers coughed up about £50 million for the construction of the Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery.

3. Sammy Ofer  KBE (1922-2011)
Possibly the 79th or the 140th richest person in the world depending on what you read, Ofer was an Israeli businessman and shipping magnate. He served with the Royal Navy in the war and it was his love of the ocean wave that led him to part with £20 million for a brand new wing at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. We can also thank him for coming up with the £3.3 million shortfall in funds necessary for the Cutty Sark restoration project. Ofer died earlier this month aged 89.

4. Sir Charles Clore and Dame Vivien Duffield, DBE (b. 1946)
Supposedly described by friends as "a frightful bully, a very awkward customer", Duffield is the daughter of Sir Charles Clore who counted Selfridges among the assets of his investment company. Charlie gave liberally to Jewish causes and founded the Clore Gallery at the Tate, which houses the world’s largest collection of paintings by Turner. He was less keen on parting with money to the Inland Revenue, it is alleged. Vivien has continued the family tradition of philanthropy. In 2006, it was estimated that her foundation was giving away £6 million a year. In March, she doled out £8.2 million for educational purposes. The National Theatre will receive £2.5 million as will Tate Britain, the Royal Shakespeare Company will get £1 million, while the Donmar Warehouse and Kensington Palace are in line for £0.5 million each.

5. Henry Tate (1819-1899)
One of the few people in this list who just about everyone will have heard of. Tate, of course, was the man behind the Tate Gallery in Millbank, which later budded off sister galleries in the Southbank, Liverpool and St Ives. The sugar magnate also funded numerous libraries throughout south London.

6. Joseph Duveen (1869-1939)
Duveen must hold some kind of record for number of major galleries named after him. You'll see evidence of his munificence at Tate Britain, the British Museum AND the National Portrait Gallery. The notorious art dealer led a life mired in controversy. He was also one of the poshest-looking people in history, as a glance at his Wikipedia entry will show.


7. Dame Shirley Porter (b. 1930)
In the late 1980s, the Tesco heiress was fined £27m for her part in the ‘homes for votes’ scandal. She upped sticks and moved her family and a lot of her assets to Israel while the row rumbled on. Now back in London, Dame Shirley remains a controversial figure. However, a gallery at the National Portrait Gallery bears her name, and the V&A and the Tate have received substantial gifts from the art-loving checkout queen.

8. Hyman Kreitman (1914-2001)
The relationship between Tesco and the Tate continues with Hyman, who married Shirley’s sister Irene and became the chairman of Britain’s biggest retailer. He particularly liked all things clay and collected works by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. When he retired, Hyman and Irene started doling out the donations and a £2.2 million gift to Tate Britain inaugurated the Hyman Kreitman Research Centre, which showcases previously unseen documents and photographs from the likes of Picasso, Degas, Turner, Henry Moore and Stanley Spencer. He also provided kick-start money for the then-new Tate Modern.

9. W Garfield Weston (1898-1978)
The late Garfield founded Associated British Foods, which among other things owns all or part of Ovaltine, Ryvita, Heals, Fortnum and Mason’s, Twinings and Primark, as well as being the inventor of the Wagon Wheel. Recent beneficiaries of his company’s charitable arm include the English National Opera (£1 million), Southwark Cathedral (£1 million), the Albert Hall (£1 million) and the Natural History Museum (£1 million).

10. Thomas Holloway (1800-1883)
Thomas Holloway was a peddler of medicines, pills and ointments of varying degrees of efficacy, although calling him a quack is perhaps a little cruel. What he was really good at, though, was marketing. Consequently, he made a fortune. When it was time to give a little back, he founded the Royal Holloway College, an asylum for the middle class deranged, for  “the professional breadwinner whose income ceases when he is unable to work.” The college, now turned into apartments, was a Victorian Gothic masterpiece described by Pevsner as the "summit of High Victorian design."

By Steve Overbury and M@. Steve has a blog here and another one here and plugs his book London Babylon here. Next week: Top 10 London Social Philanthropists.

Last Updated 22 June 2011