Dave died July 19th last year. He left his estate to his son Chris (as his wife Grace had died early in 2008). The estate involved his house and studio and, of course, his artwork. In the will Dave asked me to help Chris deal with the artwork as Chris had very little knowledge of this area.
From the beginning Chris and I have been supported by a number of Dave's friends, in particular Margaret Mytton, who has been a close friend of Daves for over 30 years. Dave made meticulous plans for his funeral and memorial service but did almost no planning with regard to the future of his work. As a result it has been a steep learning curve for the three of us and in the process we've discovered a lot that I think may be of use to other artists and their heirs. As a result I thought it would be a good idea to follow this journey through a blog.
Since December things have moved on. I discovered a book 'Artists Estates: Reputations in Trust' by Magda Salvesen published in 2005 by Rutgers University Press (ISBN-10: 0813536049/ISBN-13: 978-0813536040). Although an American book it has a lot to say about the situation we found ourselves in, and its interviews with the heirs of artists were both reassuring and helped provide us with an understanding of the (enormous) job we had taken on.
By now Chris, Margaret and I were having regular meetings about the Estate. I felt it was important to put things on a business-like footing and proposed to Chris that he made the work over to a Trust, and that the three of us made up the trustees. The ultimate beneficiary would remain Chris, but the need to develop Dave's reputation and maintain his work were our prime objectives. Chris thought this over, and we eventually consulted a solicitor. Ultimately we all felt this was a sensible course, protecting both the work itself and also the input of physical work being undertaken by Margaret and myself. The Dave Pearson Trust should be set up early in February.
5 months ago, after the shock of Dave's death, the reality of dealing with his creative legacy sank in quickly. The studio, where most of his work was stored, was a mess. Dave hoarded almost everything he ever created - and not only artwork but magazines, books, even medications from his illness. The studio wasn't heated, although he had double-glazed the windows a few years ago.
Most of all the place was crammed with his work, largely haphazardly and spilling into the stairwells and corridors. There were three levels - each with 3 or 4 rooms. For my own sanity as much as anything I began a basic inventory - room by room, listing and counting all the work without much regard for detail beyond measuring and listing the media. Even this took 3 months of sustained work, and by the end of the period I had logged about 14,000 pieces - oil paintings, drawings, prints, pastels.
Once this inventory was completed we started clearing out the rubbish. We filled three large skips over three days. The bad news was finding a serious infestation of dry-rot which had spread from the cellar to the ground floor. Anything potentially infected was burned and the affected rooms were quarantined. But we realised immediately that this discovery meant that the studio had, soon, to be treated. This not only meant finding money we didn't have, it meant finding somewhere else to house Dave's work. All 14,000 pieces of it.