Hong Kong to see Monarch of the Glen, Scottish ‘national treasure’, despite auction U-turn

Famous Landseer painting of red deer stag had been put up for auction by its owner, drinks giant Diageo, but outcry led to it being pulled from sale. Still, Christie’s will show it at Hong Kong auctions next week

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 12:56pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 12:56pm

Monarch of the Glen, one of Scotland’s most famous paintings, will still be on show at Christie’s upcoming Hong Kong auctions after a national outcry stopped it from going under the hammer in London next month.

Diageo, the drinks giant that owns the painting, on Thursday announced that it would no longer sell the 1851 painting of a red deer stag by Sir Edwin Landseer through Christie’s, which had estimated it could fetch as much as £10 million (HK$97 million) at a December 8 sale. Instead, Diageo bowed to public pressure and told the National Galleries of Scotland that it would part-gift the painting to the NGS if a public fundraising drive manages to raise £4 million for it.

The regal image of the deer with a Scottish highland backdrop has been loaned to Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland by Diageo for 17 years, so the threat of what is seen as a national treasure ending up in private hands prompted angry reactions in Scotland.

This U-turn by Diageo doesn’t mean that Christie’s needs to return it to Scotland right away. In a WeChat post on Friday, Rebecca Wei, president of Christie’s Asia, revealed that the painting arrived in Hong Kong a few days ago and that Christie’s would go ahead and show it at its autumn auctions in the city next week. It is customary for Christie’s to exhibit highlights from upcoming overseas auctions while it holds it Hong Kong sales to drum up interest among Asian collectors.

“The Diageo family agreed that the painting should still be featured at our Hong Kong preview because it had already been shipped here. Even if the painting were to have been auctioned, the British government would never have allowed it to be taken abroad,” she wrote.

Christie’s said the unusual decision to draw attention and potentially, crowds, to a cancelled consignment was made in the public interest.

“The picture has already been scheduled for public viewing in Hong Kong. We do not wish to disappoint the Asian public for whom this may be the only opportunity to see the work. We would encourage them to visit Scotland in the future,” a spokesman said.