Lord Archer's artful dodge of the taxman
Last updated at 8:57 AM on 7th June 2011
By Richard Kay
Artful dodger: Lord Archer is selling off his art collection
With prison and bankruptcy, his life has had more twists and turns than those found in his own best-selling novels.
Now, Lord Archer reveals how turning 70 was behind his decision to sell off a multi-million slice of his £100 million art collection.
‘I don’t want to die and have the taxman take 40 per cent of the value of all these wonderful works of art,’ he tells me.
‘When I reached my 70th birthday, I decided to put aside my Tigger tendencies and finally accept that I might be mortal.
‘The following day, I set about preparing for the only other certainty in life, taxes. To that end, I asked my wife Mary and my sons William and James to select paintings and sculptures from my collection they felt should remain in the family.
‘I am sad to be disposing of some of my favourite possessions, and can only hope they will go to collectors who still suffer from the illusion they are immortal.’
Among the treasures which will go under the hammer at Christie’s later this month are a £1.7 million Monet, works by Andy Warhol and masterpieces by Lowry, Sickert, Chagall, Rodin and and the sculptor Dame Elisabeth Frink.
The works, conservatively valued at £7.5 million represents only ten per cent of the former Tory Party vice-chairman’s total collection.
He is keeping a larger Monet, a Picasso and other highly valued artworks at his London penthouse and his homes in Cambridge and Majorca.
Archer, who has sold more than 300 million books since switching from politics to writing 30 years ago, asked the Ashmolean in Oxford and Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge to select six pieces each.
‘Once I know how much the sale has raised and what will be deducted by the taxman, I intend to make further donations to the National Theatre, the RSC, the National Youth Ballet and the British Library.
‘I do regret letting go of the Monet, Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe and Rodin’s Prodigal Son, but it was time to take stock of my life.
‘The evening before the sale I will be auctioning Margaret Thatcher’s famous handbag and the stopwatch Roger Bannister used when he broke the four-minute mile.
‘My friend and gallery owner Chris Beetles congratulated me on fulfilling the Maker’s contract.’
Some will view with queasiness Prince William’s decision to begin married life with Kate in an apartment at Kensington Palace.
He, above all, will recall how it became a refuge and prison for his mother, Diana.
Prince Charles, too, must be a touch uneasy, since it was once his wish to see the palace, emptied of its royal residents, become a permanent home for the treasures of the Royal Collection.
But the arrival of a new generation of Royals puts a stop to that.
As to where the couple will live, a former resident says the only available apartment is a ground floor suite on Clock Court, last lived in by Princess Margaret’s former chef Stan.
Spellbinding: Emma Watson
Though no drop-out, Emma Watson’s decision to put her U.S. Ivy League university studies on hold has convinced friends she will want to return to Britain to complete her education.
If so, then Oxford seems the likeliest destination. It was while at The Dragon, the fee-paying Oxford school, that she was chosen to play Hermione in the Harry Potter films, from which she has earned an estimated £20 million.
And among the dreaming spires of the university town, undergraduates are convinced that Emma (left) wants to read English at Worcester College.
Shakespearean scholar Professor Jonathan Bate, who will become Worcester’s provost in October, is unsure, but tells me: ‘I’d be delighted if Emma was to study here. My children would be even more thrilled, as they are massive Harry Potter fans.’
The late Claire Rayner’s famous indignation would have been very much on display if she realised how much the BBC was asking her family to pay for clips from shows she’d appeared in for a tribute evening.
At the event, held at the Criterion
Theatre, attended by family and friends including Jo Brand, Sandi
Toksvig and Baroness Helena Kennedy, her son, food writer Jay Rayner,
tells me: ‘It was my first time acting as a producer and it was a
nightmare. The naughty BBC wanted £250-a-minute for old footage. I was a
bit hacked off after all mum did for the BBC.’
Instead Jay, whose agony aunt mother died last year, enlisted the help of friend Tom Fenner, contributor at The One Show, to find VHS library footage. ‘It was a lot cheaper,’ says Jay.
Despite nearly 50 years at the cutting edge of design, no amount of minimalist furniture can cure Sir Terence Conran’s most pressing ailment — chronic back pain.
The 79-year-old style guru and restaurateur has struggled with the condition for 40 years. ‘I have had three operations and no success,’ he tells me at a Royal College of Art party.
‘I can have painkillers injected into my spine, but it only works for a while — all right for a pregnant woman, but not a hyperactive man.’
'Beguiling voice': Carla Bruni
She may be expecting twins, but the stunning wife of President Nicholas Sarkozy, Carla Bruni does not lack admirers.
Step forward Gallic chef Raymond Blanc, who tells me he is chasing Carla to sing at a music festival at his chi-chi Oxfordshire restaurant Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons.
Blanc, 61, who, like Sarkozy, has a penchant for taller women, says: ‘It’s a festival to celebrate art de vivre, and all things in France that are beautiful.
‘I want Carla to perform as she has a beguiling voice, it is very feminine.
‘I used to listen to hard rock such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, but now I like to listen to Carla when I am relaxing and I want to slow down.’
However, Blanc, who first met President Sarkozy at a lunch organised by Gordon Brown at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium three years ago, has some advice for Carla’s saturnine husband.
‘The French speak when they should be listening, so how can you have a conversation?’ he says.
‘I am no longer a Frenchman who cannot listen. It took me 30 years, but I can laugh at myself now.’
Thwarted by a legal contretemps from using his own name for his nightclub venture, Robin Birley thought he had hit on the ideal solution by calling the club after his late brother Rupert. But, a year on, he has had a rethink.
Instead, the name above the door when it opens in November will be ‘5 Hertford Street’, the club’s Mayfair address.
‘After a lot of soul-searching, it was thought Rupert’s was too personal,’ says a pal. ‘The name demanded too many explanations.
‘There are some friends who know about the Rupert connection, but more who do not.’
Rupert drowned while swimming off the coast of Togo in West Africa 25 years ago, aged 30.
Other names mooted, include Isabella’s, after the tragic fashion figure Isabella Blow. ‘Naming it after the location seems the best option,’ adds the friend.
PS. The sight of the Speaker John Bercow peering over the balcony of the VIP box at Queen’s Club yesterday, and schmoozing with former Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg, prompted some observers to murmur the dread word freebie.
In fact, Bercow was one of Britain’s most promising tennis prospects in his teens, playing at Finchley Manor Tennis Club in the days when Margaret Thatcher was its constituency MP, before a dose of bronchial asthma scuppered his thoughts of turning professional.
He used to play doubles with David Cameron, although their pairing ended before Cameron became Prime Minister. Says Bercow of Cameron: ‘He was huge fun to play with because he was a good loser and was never critical of his partner.’
Share this article:
Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below, or debate this issue live on our message boards.
The comments below have been moderated in advance.
Thus ''Archer'' prevails, and still a Lord: Then what value a Lord if they may be judged by such content in their midst: he, who is titled by street-madams the soup of sewers.!
- cassius, britannia, 07/6/2011 11:56
Greasy Archer, still a lord, what a joke.
- Terry, Bristol UK (not for long), 07/6/2011 10:45
Nicky, Kent @ 08.24 Perhaps the precedent was set when Harold Wilson's friend - the Gannex Raincoat man, Lord Kagan - kept his title and seat in the Lords after being convicted and serving a prison sentence for theft and false accounting.
- Pato, Hale, Chesh, 07/6/2011 10:25
Scum of the Earth lowest of the low.
- James buggy, Allanton Shotts Lanarkshire Scotland, 07/6/2011 09:49
Good for him. Earnt his own money and pays taxes due. Whatever else he may be, he isn't a sponger or a tax dodger!
- Mike, Somewhere in sunny Wiltshire, 07/6/2011 09:44
BUT HE STILL HAS HIS TITLE, HOW DID HE WORK THAT, AS HE'S A CONVICTED CRIMINAL
- nicky, kent, 07/6/2011 08:24
The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.