Art | Finders Keepers

Contemporary sculpture

A shared interest in both contemporary sculpture and philanthropy has spawned a doubly fruitful relationship between a collector and his dealer, says Claire Wrathall.

February 07 2011
Claire Wrathall

It’s not unusual for friendships to develop between a collector and their adviser; that one should lead to an ambitious philanthropic venture is a rarer thing. But Joel Cadbury, founder and chief executive of the leisure, pubs and property company Longshot, and Paul Green, president of London’s Halcyon Gallery, have in common not just a passion for contemporary sculpture – the work of Lorenzo Quinn in particular – but also for London’s parks and for using their wealth to do good.

Four years ago, Cadbury was hurrying along Bruton Street to a meeting when he caught sight of a work by Quinn in the window of Green’s Mayfair gallery. It was a kinetic piece called Love, an aluminium cast of two clasped hands suspended within a stainless-steel circle. “It was moving, and I just thought, ‘I’ve got to have a closer look,’” he remembers.

“I really didn’t have time, but I went in anyway – and I was fascinated. It wasn’t really in my budget, as my wife and I had two small children and other priorities at the time. But I really wanted it.” Later that week, there was a meeting in Cadbury’s office about a benefit for the Royal Parks Foundation, of which he is now chairman, and one of those present was Green. “It was a complete coincidence, but that’s how we met.”

Cadbury bought Love “within a few weeks”, and “a great friendship” between the two evolved. Their shared interest in art and the Parks led to the ongoing Isis project, a venture to bring public art – a passion of Green’s – to Hyde Park, and to raise funds for the children’s educational centre The Look Out.

The result is the first new statue within the park since Peter Pan was unveiled in 1912. Named after the Egyptian goddess of nature, Isis, by British sculptor Simon Gudgeon, is a 3m-tall, sleek, heron-like bronze bird, and a work of great beauty. But through the sale of plaques on its plinth, it has to date also raised nearly £1m for the education centre. A 60cm version of Isis now stands in both Cadbury’s and Green’s offices, for Gudgeon has made 20 subtly different versions of the piece (each an edition of no more than nine) in various sizes and media: Carrera or Thassos marble, black granite or bronze.

Cadbury has a taste for wildlife-inspired art, such as the work of South African sculptor Dylan Lewis. “But the artist I most admire is Quinn,” he says. In fact, his next purchase, in 2008, was Quinn’s The Force of Nature. “As soon as Paul got his hands on it, he called me. I saw it and knew I had to have it.” An example of his gravity-defying celebrations of the human form, it depicts a female nude swinging a globe held in a sort of catapult. The tension is extraordinary, as the globe appears to sit in the air all but unsupported.

“It was inspired by the [2004] tsunami,” specifically the idea that Mother Nature has a furious side as well as a benign one, explains Green, who has represented Quinn, the Rome-born, Hollywood-raised, Barcelona-based son of actor Anthony Quinn, for 15 years.

Recent visits he and Cadbury have made to Quinn’s foundry in Catalonia have given the two further understanding of his creative process – “how his works take shape, how many people are involved in making one piece, and just how many months it takes”. As Cadbury puts it, “To meet Lorenzo is to be further inspired by him. He’s a larger-than-life character for whom nothing is too ambitious. The real fun of collecting is, for me, learning from and about artists.”

Cadbury and Green are not alone in their enthusiasm for Quinn’s works, which start at about £15,000 for a piece 40-50cm high from an edition of eight, rising to hundreds of thousands for larger sculptures and millions for major commissions: King Juan Carlos of Spain, Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Vatican all own works (the latter commissioned a statue of St Anthony).

Though Cadbury is modest about his knowledge of art, pleading passion over connoisseurship, his eye is excellent. The first work he bought, in 1988, was a painting by his direct contemporary Henrietta Graham, best known for the eight canvases that hang in Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at Claridge’s. “She was 17 at the time, and a friend but, fortunately, she turned out to be a very good artist,” he says.

He’s also supported the British artist Will Ayres since his student days, and owns a triptych and several other works by him. “And I like very modern things,” such as the Scottish artist David Mach’s “Marilyn” collages, two of which he’s bought. “I think to cut up 3,000 postcards of Marilyn Monroe and reconfigure them as a portrait of Chairman Mao is art. It’s the most complicated thing I’ve ever seen.”

There is, he adds, something very exciting about buying from living artists – which is the theme that unites his collection – not just the potential to get to know them, but because it means “there’s not a finite amount of his work out there, and you never know what they’re going to produce next”.

Would Cadbury say that meeting Green had shaped his taste? He concedes that his interest in Quinn and Gudgeon has come from Green, but “to buy only from one person wouldn’t make sense”, he says, “because you would only have someone else’s view of art”.

In any case, they don’t agree on everything. Green, for example, is also expert in Impressionism. Cadbury points to a Renoir nude in Green’s office. “I find it utterly charmless,” he says. “And that one’s very gloomy too,” he adds, indicating a Degas thought to have influenced Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon. “Would you want it in your house? It would depress me terribly.”

In essence, then, he’s driven to collect by what he likes rather than what’s venerated. “What something might be worth just doesn’t come into it,” he says. “I find the concept of buying art because it’s going to appreciate completely alien. I mean, unless you’re a dealer, why would you buy art in order to sell it?”