The Stubbs that ticks all the billionaire boxes

imageGimcrack on Newmarket Heath, by Stubbs, is about to go on sale at Christie’s, and is bound to go for more than £20m – a buyer has assured the auction house that they’ll pay at least that.

Even without that assurance, it was bound to go for a fortune. Not just because it is a supremely fine, supremely English picture, and an exceptional Stubbs, but also because it is pure modern billionaire art.

The most famous racehorse of the 18th century at the most famous flat racecourse of any century? There are any number of sporting billionaires who’d pay £20m for it. Racing may be called the Sport of Kings; but it is also the Sport of the Superzillionaire with cash to spare, from all over the world, but particularly in the Middle East and America.

The best example was Paul Mellon, the late American tycoon who endowed the gallery of British Art at Yale – a treasure trove of 18th and 19th century British art. Mellon specialised in buying British portraits, sailing scenes and racing scenes.

Billionaires like beautiful pictures that hold value, but they also like pictures of the things they like doing. Useful, too, if the artist has name value – wonderful to be able to say to your dinner guests, “Oh, the loo? Just turn left at the Stubbs.”

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