Eric and Jean Cass collection to benefit UK museums

It is better to give than receive, so goes the classic adage. Although true, there is some misrepresentation in that saying as the receiver of a gift, especially something special or sentimental, will argue that being the beneficiary is near enough blissful.
The UK’s Contemporary Art Society would certainly agree with this interpretation, as it has just announced that it has been gifted over 300 works of modern and contemporary art from the Eric and Jean Cass Collection.
Worth around £4 million, the collection will be distributed by the society to a number of galleries and museums, including the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, Leeds Art Gallery, The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh and The Royal Pavilion and Museums in Brighton.
The idea is that certain works of art from the collection, produced by the likes of Karel Appel, Joan Miro, Henry Moore, Victor Pasmore, Niki de Saint-Phalle and Pablo Picasso, will “complement and enliven” what these various institutions already own.
Accordingly then, for example, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has been gifted works by Michael Craig Martin and Reg Butler; Leeds Art Gallery has been given works by Joe Tilson, Robert Adams, Henry Moore and Alison Wilding; and the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery has been donated works by Pablo Picasso, Barbara Hepworth, Victor Pasmore and Eileen Agar.
Paul Hobson, director of the Contemporary Art Society, described the donation as generous and of immeasurable cultural and financial value to these establishments and audiences across the UK. It is “an example of selfless philanthropy”.
He added: “Eric and Jean have built their collection with great passion, care and intelligence, always knowing that the works in time would enter public collections where the pleasure they have had privately would be shared with the widest audience nationally, now and in the future.”
He described their endowment as being rather unique. It’s a generalisation, but there is a propensity for charitable philanthropists who are bequeathing their brilliant collections to opt for London-centric museums, motivated by the visibility the capital offers and the calibre of the establishments based there.
“It is typical of this enlightened couple that they would aspire to benefit audiences no matter where they live, recognising that artists and audiences seed their imaginations through experiencing these important local collections,” Mr Hobson concluded.
The couple’s collection has come together over a 40-year period and has been, for the most part, housed in their brilliant modernist home in Surrey, which came to be known as Bleep.
This curious moniker originated from a product that formed part of Mr Cass’s electronics business. And yes, it basically emitted a high pitched bleeping sound. It is as novel as it gets.
“When the time came for us to leave Bleep and our 365-strong collection of modern and contemporary art, we had to find a home that love the pieces as much as we did,” Mr and Mrs Cass explained.
“The Contemporary Art Society, under its director Paul Hobson, provided the answer. It has been a big job, carried out with the same spirit that involved us in collecting in the first place.”
The society, which was founded in 1910, is an important entity. Its raison d’être is specifically geared towards supporting and developing public collections of contemporary art in the UK.
Since its inception, it has played a positive and decisive role in helping shape these collections in the UK, donating an estimated 8,000 works of art to numerous museums and galleries.
This is made possible through the way in which the society is organised. As a membership organisation, it works closely with its subscribers, acting as a catalyst in developing audiences, artists, curators, collectors and collections alike.
Cadogan Tate works with museums and galleries to deliver fine art storage solutions.