Absolutely Fabulous: Joanna Lumley helps The Art Fund save painting

  • 4 June 2008

Celebrated actress and national treasure Joanna Lumley today launched The Art Fund's public appeal to save a Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787) portrait of John Rolle Walter for the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery in Exeter, at The Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair.

A giant replica jigsaw puzzle has been made of the portrait and visitors to the fair, open from 5th-15th June, are being urged to buy a piece to help raise £15,000 towards the £300,000 sale price of the painting. Jigsaw pieces range from £5 to £1,000 and members of the public can visit the fair or donate to the campaign on 0870 848 2003.

Joanna Lumley, who is a committed cultural philanthropist and member of The Art Fund’s Council of Honour, today added a piece to the jigsaw to encourage fair goers and the public to take part.

Joanna Lumley said: “I’m a huge supporter of The Art Fund, without their efforts many rare and wonderful works of art would have gone into private collections or disappeared out of the country forever. I do hope this beautiful painting can be saved and urge everyone to do their bit and buy a piece of the jigsaw.”

The painting, which brings together the dominant Italian portrait painter of the 18th Century and an eminent public figure in the political history of South West England, was recently pulled at the last minute from an auction sale at Christies in order to give the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, Exeter the chance to fundraise. The painting would be an important addition to their collection, which is one of the finest examples of Batoni’s work and is widely considered the missing link to the current museum collection.

David Barrie, Director of the UK’s leading independent art charity, The Art Fund said: "This great Batoni portrait is of historical interest because John Rolle Walter was a key figure in the turbulent politics of 18th Century Exeter, but what really matters is that it is an artistic tour de force. Exeter must have it and I am sure that visitors to the Olympia Fair will rise to the challenge now that The Art Fund has launched the fundraising campaign."

This announcement follows news that Britain’s major cultural institutions, including The Art Fund, have launched a nationwide campaign entitled “Private Giving for the Public Good", which calls for greater support to encourage a culture of giving.

Further Art Fund fundraising events on the opening night of the fair include 25% of profit from tickets sold on the night and proceeds from pink Art Fund cocktails.

For 35 years the Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair, organised by Clarion Arts, has been one of the season’s top destinations for lovers of art, antiques, jewellery and ornamental objects, attracting top specialists from across the world to exhibit in London each June.

To find out more and donate please call 0870 848 2003 and quote AA309.

Notes to editors:

- Images are available on request.
- Art Fund members will receive a 2 for 1 entry offer to the fair on presentation of their membership cards.
- The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections. Recent achievements include: helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents were secured intact for the nation in July 2007; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit www.artfund.org