The Capitol Theatre was, once again, the venue for the third biennial lecture hosted by The Arts Society, Horsham, for all the art and photography students at Collyer’s Sixth Form College.
Past lectures have focused on the human form and photography as art, but this year’s lecture, delivered by Ian Swankie, was entitled ‘The World’s Most Expensive Art’.
Ian is an Arts Society lecturer, who is an official guide at a number of London galleries, including Tate Modern. He is a qualified and active freelance London guide, and leads regular tours for various corporations and organisations, and is also a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Art Scholars.
His lecture, which intrigued the students listening, looked at the top end of the art market where, in the last few years, the amount paid for the three most expensive artworks would be enough to buy 5,000 brand new Bentley Continental motor cars or to pay the annual salaries of more than 25,000 nurses.
This lecture was an excuse to examine some beautiful and varied art, including works by Picasso, Cezanne, Leonardo, Rembrandt, Modigliani, Klimt, Bacon and Pollock, all held together by the common thread of their extraordinary commercial value. The lecture also looked at the buyers and sellers, the back-story of the works, the reasons for changing hands, and Ian attempted to answer the question “Are they really worth hundreds of millions of pounds?”
Susie McAlister, head of Art at Collyers, said afterwards: “Back at college, there was a fierce debate among the students as to the moral aspect of paintings costing so much money, and about the fact that many are just stored in bank vaults as investments and not on public view.”
Christine Knight, Young Arts Secretary, said: “I’m pleased that, once again, we were able to sponsor this lecture for Collyers students, and delighted that the subject matter created some stimulating discussion amongst the students. Ian was particularly engaging in the way he linked the cost of some paintings to everyday items, for example, the cost of one Picasso would have paid the university fees for all the students at the lecture, and bought them each a car and given them £80,000 each to spend!”

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