A billionaire New York financier revealed as the mystery buyer of a £29 million Raphael drawing, auctioned by Sotheby’s in London, must wait to discover if he will ever be allowed to add the work to his $750 million collection.
Leon Black was this week named as the purchaser of Head of a Young Apostle, an 11-inch wide work by the Renaissance master, sold last December after a four-party bidding war.
The study of a bearded man has been part of the Duke of Devonshire’s collection at Chatsworth in Derbyshire since the 1700s. It broke the auction record for a work on paper, fetching £29 million, three times its estimate.
However Black, the billionaire founder of private-equity group Apollo Global Management, and the owner of Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion, has not been able to ship the latest addition to his collection, which already includes a Raphael drawing as well as works by Picasso and Van Gogh.
Ed Vaizey, Arts minister, placed a temporary export bar on the Raphael to give a final opportunity for someone to raise the money to keep the drawing in the UK.
Black must wait until 3 July to hear if any serious offer has been made. If there is a chance that an institution or individual could raise the sum required, the export ban could be extended to January 2014.
“I hope that placing a temporary export bar on the Raphael will allow time for a UK buyer to come forward and secure this magnificent example of Raphael's work for the nation,” Vaizey said when he imposed the order.
Vaizey said he hoped the “amazing coup” which allowed the Ashmolean museum to acquire Manet’s Mademoiselle Claus, also at risk of leaving the UK, could be repeated. However the Manet was priced at a comparatively affordable £7.8 million.
Black, 61, whose personal fortune is estimated at $4.3 billion by Forbes, is rarely denied.
The Wall Street private equity tycoon emerged as the $120 million buyer of one of the four original versions of Edvard Munch’s The Scream last year.
The Raphael Apostle was sold last year to “benefit the long-term future of Chatsworth and its collections”.
Drawn around 1520, Head of a Young Apostle is a study for the head of one of the figures in Raphael’s last great painting, The Transfiguration, which hangs in the Vatican.
Questioned about the Raphael at the Art Basel Swiss contemporary art air, Black said: “I'm not going to talk about it. I just want to enjoy the fair.”
An export bar allowed the National Gallery to reclaim Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks, which the Getty museum in California had been prepared to pay £29 million for. The Heritage Lottery fund and contributions from members of the public helped raise sufficient funds to keep the painting in Britain in 2004.
Arts Council England, which administers the export licence scheme, said it could not comment on any potential bids for the Raphael until 3 July. No serious offers have been tabled and Black expects to claim his purchase next month, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Black’s Apollo group has sold about $13 billion in assets in the past 15 months. “We’re selling everything that’s not nailed down,” Black recently said at an investors’ conference. Graceland is available for sale too, his company indicated.