A confidant of Francis Bacon has decided not to donate a trove of works by the postwar painter to Tate in London following a long-running rift with the British institution over its handling of a previous gift. Instead he will donate the works to the French state.
Barry Joule, a British man who befriended Bacon in 1978 while the two were living in London, rescinded his initial plan to donate the works after Tate had failed to exhibit an earlier tranche of works he had donated almost two decades ago, the Guardian reports.
The current donation is said to comprise around 150 drawings and 10 paintings, along with a trove of archival materials that include hundreds of photographs and 12 hours of audio recordings between Joule and Bacon. Joule maintained contact with Bacon until the artist’s death in 1992.
Now, Joule says he has already begun negotiations to donate the materials to the Centre Pompidou’s national archives in Paris. In 2019, the Pompidou organized an exhibition titled “Bacon: Books and Painting” that looked at the literary influences on the Irish-born artist’s work.
Joule has donated works to French museums before. In 2005, he donated 80 drawings by Bacon to the Musée Picasso in Paris, which displayed them in a large-scale exhibition that same year.
In 2004, Joule donated to Tate a near 1,200-item archive spanning drawings to photographs from Bacon’s studio that was worth an estimated £20 million at the time. When the announcement was made, Tate said it would catalogue the donation over a period of three years before making it available to be exhibited.
Joule has said he is considering taking legal action against the Tate over the museum’s failure to prominently showcase the collection as agreed, threatening to sue the institution in an email correspondence published in August 2021.
A representative for Tate did not immediately respond to ARTnews‘s request for comment.
But recently doubt has been cast over the bona fides of Joule’s 2004 donation, known as the Barry Joule Archive (BJA). Last September, the Bacon Estate published Francis Bacon: Shadows, which quotes an unnamed Tate curator as saying “the hand/s that applied the marks to the material may not have included Bacon to any substantial degree,” according to an article published by the Guardian at the time.
In Shadows, Sophie Pretorius, an archivist for the estate, adds, “The story of the material associated with Joule is riddled with exaggeration, half-truths and contradictions… Bacon’s work is not easy to mimic. But the author of the items in the BJA made a stab at it.”