'Saatchi of the North' unveils BritArt cache to the public

DIY tycoon challenges the establishment with a new show in London and plans for his own gallery in Manchester
Click to follow
The Independent Online

A business tycoon who has secretly hoarded one of Britain's finest modern art collections, said to be rivalled only by that of Charles Saatchi, is to give the public a first glimpse of the works.

A business tycoon who has secretly hoarded one of Britain's finest modern art collections, said to be rivalled only by that of Charles Saatchi, is to give the public a first glimpse of the works.

Frank Cohen, a multi-millionaire who made his fortune from a DIY business, has a cache of 1,000 works, largely stored in a warehouse in the West Midlands.

He has agreed to display around 30 pieces in London. They include work by last year's Turner Prize winner, Grayson Perry, and fellow Turner nominees Jake and Dinos Chapman, as well as the young German artists Mr Cohen has been championing in recent years. Also on show will be work by the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.

Mr Cohen, 60, is worth around £45m. He is now planning a more permanent outlet for his collection, with a dedicated gallery in his home city of Manchester.

One of last year's Turner Prize judges, Mr Cohen has been hailed for his keen eye and dubbed the "Saatchi of the North". He built up his fortune with the DIY business Glyn Webb Home Improvements and his first purchase was a work by LS Lowry called My Family, bought because he said it reminded him of his humble upbringing.

Speaking of his ambitions, Mr Cohen said: "Art is such a passion of mine and I want to give something back. I would love to be part of creating a proper art scene in Manchester. But more than this, I want to put right the situation that, outside London and people like Saatchi with his gallery, there are no privately run art galleries and collections.

"I will be able to bring in collections at a few months' notice that the Tate would love to have but is not flexible enough to handle because it plans years in advance."

Tom Morton, a contributing editor of the art magazine Frieze, said: "His pieces are very well selected. He has a very deep and sensitive eye.

"Everyone has moved on from the whole BritArt story and the most exciting thing at the moment is collecting young German artists."

The unprecedented look into Mr Cohen's collection takes place next month as part of Art Fortnight London, featuring events in more than 70 galleries and auction houses around the capital.

Meredith Etherington-Smith, project director for Art Fortnight London, said: "There have been one or two pieces in small shows but Frank Cohen's collection has never been seen on this scale. It's a bit of a coup.

"He chose the pieces and I found this fantastic 18th-century house in Mayfair. The idea was to have pieces that would look amazing and respond to the rococo interior.

"It took me a long time to persuade him to do this and it wasn't so much me as the house that did it.

"He just loves art. His motivation is genuinely owning things and finding things and encouraging young artists. He collects things that he really responds to. He's a very pure collector. I'm not going to draw any analogies with any other collectors."

Mr Cohen follows in the footsteps of other passionate private collectors such as the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who displayed his pre-Raphaelite works at the Royal Academy of Arts in London last year. The exhibition went on to become an unexpected blockbuster.

Mr Cohen is planning to open his gallery in the Spinningfields development in Manchester city centre. He has just reached a deal with a property developer.

Art Fortnight London runs from 21 June to 5 July. Frank Cohen's collection can be seen at 3 Grafton Street, London W1

Comments