Highbury Fields art collector Tim Sayer: Why I’m giving away my entire collection

Tim Sayer at his home near Highbury Fields. Picture: Polly Hancock

Tim Sayer at his home near Highbury Fields. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Imagine sharing your home with David Hockney, Gerhard Richter, Henry Moore and Bridget Riley – to name just a few. Tim Sayer doesn’t have to. Inside his Islington townhouse are more than 500 works of art – collected over half a century.

Tim Sayer has been collecting art since he was a schoolboy. Picture: Polly Hancock

Tim Sayer has been collecting art since he was a schoolboy. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Tim, 71, started his collection as a schoolboy in 1962 with a portfolio of prints from a junk shop in Richmond. Since then he’s amassed many more, all of which have adorned the walls of his Islington home for the past 35 years.

“I buy what I like the look of – assuming I can afford it,” he said.

“I don’t buy for investment – that’s the worst possible reason.”

As proof of that mantra he’s donating his entire collection to the Hepworth Gallery in Yorkshire when he dies. It’s a break with tradition seeing as he’s lived near Highbury Fields for the last three decades.


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“I have no connections with Yorkshire at all,” he admitted. “But I have no children, and no siblings, and I wanted to give the collection to a gallery outside of London – London has enough.

Tim Sayer with some of his enviable collection. Picture: Polly Hancock

Tim Sayer with some of his enviable collection. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

“Two years ago I visited the Hepworth with my wife, and we liked it so much that we offered the director our collection.”

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As a result of his generosity, Tim, 71, was nominated last month for a national award celebrating philanthropy in the arts. The winner of the Beacon award will be announced in May, but for Tim it’s people’s ability to enjoy the art that matters. “It’s absolutely essential my collection goes on show to the public,” he said.

“I don’t approve of people who stuff work away; hopefully this encourages other collectors to offer their pieces to galleries.”

Fifty-two of the works have already gone to the Hepworth, including one of just two pieces his wife has always disliked.

“She loves the collection,” he said.

“But she always used to try and sit with her back to this one [a Larry Poons] – now it’s gone she need never look at it again.”

After working as a BBC news writer for 40 years, Tim is enjoying his retirement – and the time to consider which piece of his collection he loves the most. Not something that’s easy when every wall is blanketed with artistic wonder. “My favourite piece varies day by day – it depends on my mood and the weather,” he said.

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