The movie legend, his train driver lover... and a war over 70 missing artworks: How controversial film-maker Derek Jarman is at the centre of a legal battle decades after his tragic early death
- Derek Jarman left more than 300 sketches, drawings and paintings
- His lover Keith Collins is suing London art dealer Richard Salmon
- Jarman died at the age of 52 in 1994 from an AIDS-related condition
He was the brilliant – if controversial – film-maker whose visionary work was acclaimed by critics before his tragically early death.
Now Derek Jarman is once more at the centre of a compelling drama, but this time played out in the High Court as his lover battles to reclaim dozens of paintings by the director.
Keith Collins is suing London art dealer Richard Salmon over 70 missing works of art, while claiming he has been fiddled out of tens of thousands of pounds from the sale of others.
Film-maker Derek Jarman's lover, Keith Collins, is suing art dealer Richard Salmon over 70 missing works of art. Jarman is pictured centre with Collins and actress Tilda Swinton in 1991
Jarman left more than 300 sketches, drawings and paintings, with a combined value of about £2 million, which he had created at his home, Prospect Cottage in the shadow of Dungeness power station in Kent.
Salmon had an exclusive deal to sell all the directors’ works under an arrangement they agreed a year before Jarman died of an AIDS-related condition in 1994. Under that deal, Collins, a London train driver, was entitled to half the proceeds of any sale following his lover’s death.
However, in legal papers lodged at the High Court, he claims that scores of paintings have gone missing – and that he did not receive his fair share from at least one sale of Jarman’s work.
Salmon disputes the figures, saying he has been ‘transparent’ about his dealings – and has vowed to defend the case.
Collins, a former deep-sea fisherman and actor who met the film-maker at the 1987 Tyneside Film Festival, says his suspicions were raised following an exhibition at the Wilkinson Gallery in London in 2014, where several of Jarman’s pieces were sold. He expected to receive £31,000 from the sale, but was sent just £13,000.
He discovered that the gallery had been told to pay the proceeds of the sale to a charity of which Salmon was a trustee, rather than his company, Richard Salmon Limited, which had struck the original deal with Jarman. In fact, the company had gone into liquidation eight years earlier.
Jarman left more than 300 sketches, drawings and paintings, with a combined value of about £2 million. Pictured is one of his paintings, entitled Drop Dead
Collins then investigated the whereabouts of more than 300 pieces of works. He was horrified that only 120 could be located, and some of these were in a ‘damaged and poor condition’.
A number had gone missing in 2008, but the legal papers claim Salmon did not reveal this to Collins until 2014 and failed to either track them down or make an insurance claim on them.
Since Collins first raised concerns, 258 works have been recovered, but about 70 remain unaccounted for.
He is now seeking an injunction to stop Salmon selling any more of Jarman’s artwork, the return of any pieces he still has, and payment of an undisclosed amount owed on previous sales.
Salmon last night denied all of Mr Collins’s allegations and put the number of missing works at about 30, which he blamed on a storage company – and said he had lodged an insurance claim long before Collins’s legal action.
Salmon had an exclusive deal to sell all the directors’ works, with Collins entitled to half the proceeds of any sale following his lover’s death. Pictured is Apollo II
He also said he was the ‘de facto owner’ of several works that Jarman had created with his support towards the end of his life and added: ‘Collins has failed to respond to any requests to agree to a round-table meeting to settle the dispute amicably, which I imagine has been very expensive for him.’
Collins has taken over the running of Prospect Cottage since Jarman died at the age of 52.
He was dubbed HB, or Hinney Beast, by the director, who was 24 years his senior, using a Geordie term of endearment. Collins appeared in several of Jarman’s films, including The Garden and Wittgenstein.
His legal battle was sparked by the sale of Jarman’s paintings Afterlife, Apollo II and Smashing Times at the Wilkinson Gallery. Some of Jarman’s artwork is in the Tate collection, and pieces have sold for more than £6,000.
No date has yet been set for the High Court hearing.
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