Thursday, 26 February 2009

An auction - and an exhibition

Yesterday was an important step for the Dave Pearson Trust. Firstly the auction was very successful, and we raised several thousand pound to start off the bank account for the Trust and so we now have some capital with which to pay the bills we’ve accumulated (the website, some frames etc) and to begin to plan for the future.

The viewing days were well attended, including many who weren’t able to get to the auction itself but wanted to see the work. A few tears were shed; in particular by ex-students who remembered Dave’s influence on them. I heard so many odd and typical and unexpected stories and anecdotes. For me it was a privileged time, looking at the paintings and drawings, listening to music, and meeting people who had been touched by Dave. About 40 people came to the auction, of which nearly 30 were bidding for work. I had hoped to raise £3000, and we comfortably exceeded this.

Then on to the exhibition at the See Gallery. Julian had got carried away the previous days and we added extra pieces to the show – large panels from the Byzantium series that went into the kitchen/reception/living room, and a vast and very heavy relief from the early 70s – Asylum 2, plus a blue papier-mache figure ‘On the Edge of Infinity’ (I think that was Vincent’s title). The show looked great, and we drunk wine and enjoyed the music, the atmosphere and the conversation. The gallery began to sell too, and by the end of the evening Julian and Jackie seemed very happy with things.

Chris and Florence, Dave’s son and daughter, were at both events, as well as many colleagues and ex-students of Dave’s from MMU. For me a very enjoyable day – almost like a Horse + Bamboo event but without the anxiety, as Jonny pointed out, of having your own creative head on the block.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Ready to go

We've been very busy the past few days. Firstly the exhibition at the See has been hung and invitations to the opening on Wednesday evening have been sent out. It looks good - about 40 pieces of work, beautifully hung by Julian.

Then the Boo (the Horse + Bamboo Theatrespace) has been prepared for the auction we're holding, again on Wednesday, to raise money for the Trust. Margaret and I worked the whole day yesterday to lay-out the 70-odd pieces of work that are being auctioned, with appropriate numbering systems so the auction goes smoothly and things don't get misplaced in any confusion. Our biggest worry now is that the turn out will be disappointing. Margaret has contacted hundreds of Dave's colleagues and friends, but getting to a mid-week afternoon event in a small Lancashire town may put many off. Ideally I hope about 50 people turn up, and less than 20 will be a disappointment.

One thing the auction and exhibition have in common is that they both contain a wide range of Dave's work from the late 1960s to the last few years. It struck me that Dave would normally exhibit only his latest work so it's an unfamiliar experience to see work from different periods hanging together. Interesting, but not unexpected, to see the variety and range, but also interesting to see continuities and formal gestures repeated. Margaret noted the odd and mysterious space in many of the pieces. It made me want to see a full and properly ordered retrospective of his output.

Saturday, 14 February 2009


Delivered 40 plus paintings to the See Gallery yesterday, and made final arrangements for the exhibition of Dave’s work. We agreed that we would open the exhibition on the same day as the auction so anyone travelling a long distance to the one can easily visit the other. Makes sense, but Margaret has already mailed out she says ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of invites with the old date on (Friday 20th Feb) so she will now need to circulate something announcing the change to Wednesday 25th.

Setting a price on the work is – as always - difficult. As someone who sold very little during his lifetime (he didn’t really make much effort to) there isn’t a template to fall back on. Do you set the prices low and risk devaluing the work, or high and risk not selling? The classic market dilemma – but complicated by how price may be related to reputation. Will the galleries we would like to see representing Dave’s work be put off by ‘wrong’ pricing? I would hope that the quality of the work would be the important factor, but I somehow doubt that is always the case.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Settlors and Beneficiaries

The meeting with Chris and Margaret was good. We discussed Chris’s idea to solve the storage issue (an outhouse) and agreed that he should cost it out. We also had the draft Trust constitution from the solicitor and looked at it together. Afterwards we telephoned to set a day to meet with the solicitor and finalise the constitution. Then the way will be clear to submit the documents to the bank and open a bank account in the name of the Dave Pearson Trust. It would be nice if this could be done by the date of the auction.

One of the items for discussion was how Chris would word the trust documents. He is the ‘Settlor’, the person who currently owns the artwork. He will name other potential ‘Beneficiaries’ and needs to agree on this before the final document is drawn up. Chris has a sister, Florence, who has lived most of her life apart from the family. The circumstances around the illness of her parents finally brought Florence back to the family, and she met Chris not long before Dave’s death after a long, long separation. I remember both Chris and Florence when I was a student and occasionally did their baby-sitting. The long period of separation must have been painful for everyone concerned, and Chris is now clearly anxious to develop a close and warm relationship with the sister he has rediscovered after such a long parting.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


It’s easy to write these entries and wonder just who is out there at the other end – if anybody. I started this blog because I didn’t know where to turn when Dave died and the enormity of the task began to sink in. Wills, probate, taxes, executors, trusts, solicitors – there’s a lot of stuff to consider quite apart from the direct business of dealing with paintings. If just one person benefits from reading about our experiences then I thought it would be worthwhile.

In fact, over the past week I’ve heard from an old friend (from 30 years ago) who has recently found themselves in a similar situation with the estate of a close relative, a sculptor. There’s also been contact with ex-students of Dave’s, as well as the support I’ve already written about from galleries and artist friends who shared studio space with him. So clearly there are people out there.

Tomorrow Margaret and I will sort through the studio to select paintings for the See Gallery exhibition. I'll hire a van and will take them to the gallery on Friday. Chris has an idea about storing the work, so we'll meet up and see what he has to say. On the phone he described it as a 'Eureka' moment.....let's hope so.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


One of the pleasures of being in this situation is the opportunity to sit and enjoy looking at Dave’s artwork.

When Dave died my first thought was to do a quick inventory of his work simply to discover what we were dealing with. It wasn’t easy because the paintings, drawings, sketchbooks are piled into the rooms of the studio and a lot is unreachable without moving other work and there simply isn’t any space left to move things to. Plus the work was all mixed up with art materials, books, research notes, medications, old papers, dust… Anyway it took me a couple of months to log what I could. I listed nearly 15,000 pieces of artwork but I hardly looked at any of them as it was simply a matter of counting, noting the medium, and taking a measurement.

But now I’m going through things slowly, photographing and adding them to the Artlook inventory. Most of them I'm able to take home and note them in comfort. I’m logging their condition as well as size and medium. I have to touch each one, and look at it. Some recall the period I stayed with Dave and bring back memories; some are completely new to me and fill in gaps in my knowledge of his life and work. Many are just sketches and scribbles but a surprising number are substantial and impressive and exciting. Look and touch these and the worries about dry rot and storage fade away.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

An auction - and an exhibition!

I met with Julian (of the See Gallery) last weekend and he discussed the idea of an exhibition of Dave's work at their gallery to coincide with our auction. At first I wondered if these events would compete with one another but, on reflection, it felt that so long as the material in the exhibition was chosen to complement that in the auction it would be a wonderful opportunity to show a wider range of Dave's work.

There's absolutely no shortage of artwork, and we could easily show paintings at the See as the auction will largely be of works on paper. Julian and Jackie stressed that they would like to offer the Trust an opportunity to show Dave's work to other parties - dealers, galleries and so on. This is extremely generous of them and we're very grateful to their commitment to help us in developing Dave Pearson's legacy. This whole process has reminded me of the great goodwill in our local community of artists, painters and their supporters.

So, today I've made a final selection of work to auction. This won't be until February 25th but I now need to leave plenty of time to sort out paintings for the exhibition at the See. Next week I'll discuss the details of publicising the exhibition with Julian, while Margaret has been busy this week sending out information about the auction to Dave's friends and colleagues .

With all of this going on it's easy to forget the problems of storage and the dry-rot in the studio. But Chris Pearson has been focusing on this issue. Its not going to go away - before long we have some very difficult decisions to make. In the meantime I'm also in the process of setting up a bank account for the Dave Pearson Trust so once the solicitors have done their bit we're ready to act immediately....and by act I mean have, we hope, money to bank for the Trust as a result of a successful auction.