Large Francis Bacon collection to be donated to Paris' Pompidou

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The national archives of the Centre Pompidou in Paris is to receive a large collection of works donated by a close friend of the British painter Francis Bacon. Barry Joule said he had chosen to the French museum as a recipient instead of the Tate gallery in London after he had had a falling out with the London gallery.

Joule’s donation to France includes up to 150 drawings, 10 paintings, hundreds of photographs and more than 12 hours of taped conversations he had with the artist.

"The Tate and Britain will be missing out on part of the nation’s art history of one of their most important painters. I turn my back on the Tate for ever," Joule told the Observer.

"Many of these Bacon images in my collection have an engaging story to tell. That art history and my intimate knowledge of Bacon will be lost to the UK."

According to the Guardian newspaper, Joule said he changed his mind about donating the works to the Tate because of the gallery's failure to exhibit a donation of the artist’s work he made in 2004.

At that time, he gave the Tate about 1,200 sketches, photographs and documents from Bacon’s studio in what was then described as one of the most generous gifts to the gallery, worth an estimated 24 million euros.

The Tate said at the time that it would "undertake to study, photograph and catalogue the collection over the next three years, before displaying these items and making them available for loan."

Paris connection

Barry Joule had lived near Bacon’s London studio, and in 1978 they struck up a friendship that continued until the artist’s death in 1992.

Joule, who now lives in France, noted Bacon’s love of Paris, although "he said he couldn’t work there because there were too many distractions."

He previously donated about 100 Bacon drawings based on Picasso to the Musée Picasso in Paris, which exhibited them in a large Bacon-Picasso exhibition in 2005. Shortly afterwards, the French government awarded him the Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et Lettres.

In 2019, the Pompidou organized an exhibition entitled "Bacon: Books and Painting" that looked at the literary influences on the Irish-born artist’s work.

A Tate spokeswoman declined to comment on the gallery’s handling of the 2004 gift. Asked about Joule’s cancellation of a further gift, she said: "We can confirm we have received the letter and will be responding to it."

Joule's 2004 donation

However, according to ArtNews, doubt has been cast over the authenticity of Joule’s 2004 donation, known as the Barry Joule Archive (BJA).

Last September, the Bacon Estate published Francis Bacon: Shadows, which quotes an unnamed Tate curator as saying "the hand/s that applied the marks to the material may not have included Bacon to any substantial degree," according to an article published by the Guardian at the time.

In Shadows, Sophie Pretorius, an archivist for the estate, adds, "The story of the material associated with Joule is riddled with exaggeration, half-truths and contradictions… Bacon’s work is not easy to mimic. But the author of the items in the BJA made a stab at it."

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