Monday, 28 February 2011

Working on a narration for the film


I've been away but things have continued to develop. Margaret Mytton has been busy helping Derek Smith find solutions for a number of issues surrounding the film that the Trust has commissioned. One thing has been to work on the script - getting things factually correct, for example. An associated issue is finding an independent and critical voice to comment on Dave's work and even his place in 20th century British painting. 

We've plenty of informed comment from friends and colleagues, but it will give the film more weight and a sense of perspective if we can find a knowledgeable and independent voice. Of course this is very difficult - because Dave was almost unknown it's inevitable that we will need to introduce his work to any critic, probably for the first time. This itself leads to additional problems - although Dave left an enormous amount of work his really major pieces are large and can't be seen properly, certainly not within the tight confines of the restored studio. In particular the Byzantium series, the work that Dave considered his major achievement, is currently impossible to study. 

In order to find a solution to this Margaret is looking at the possibility of showing a selection of these pieces, perhaps at Easter, in a gallery large enough to hang them properly - possibly the Holden Gallery at Manchester Metropolitan University where they were originally show in the 1990s. To help this process on Margaret spent Sunday with Chris Pearson recording the paintings he has in store in his house in Haslingden

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Estate Duty, continued

Yesterday I went to our solicitor with Chris Pearson to review the current position with regard to the Estate Duty and the current tax situation of the Dave Pearson Trust. 

Our solicitor repeated that we're in a very unusual situation. We took professional advice and that was that Dave's work was almost valueless 'at the time of death', which is the way that an Estate is valued in law - 'at the time of death'. Because Dave had sold no work during the last years of his life there was no sales history for a valuer to go on. Chris repeated that normally he would have kept as many painting as he could in order to remember his father; given some to family and friends, and the rest would have gone with the studio in some version of a house-clearance, i.e. been destroyed.  In that context the valuation Chris gave, with the advice of a professional probate valuer and his solicitor (£5,000), was probably accurate.

But that didn't happen. Instead Chris gave the work into a Trust which is managed by me (Bob Frith), Margaret Mytton, and Chris himself. Anyone who has followed this blog will know the efforts we've gone to in order to enhance Dave Pearson's reputation. In the course of doing this, inevitably, the value of the work has increased and the work now clearly enjoys a much higher value. The story has been taken up my the press, and they have quoted a value in 'millions'. It's this that the HMRC have got hold of and so asked to look again at the Estate. 

So we agreed that our solicitor will reply to HMRC, repeating the facts of the case, and the reasons why the estate was valued the way it was 'at the time of death'. It could be that HMRC will send in a specialist; whatever they do it will probably take some months. The wheels of the taxman turn slowly. 

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Albion's grimy windows

There's nothing back yet from our solicitors with regards to my response about the Estate Duty paid on Dave Pearson's artwork. But no real surprise there.  

Meanwhile I've been working on a poster for the two local schools who have asked to use Dave's large painting of 'Red and Blue Horses' as a starting point for each class to work on an open-ended project. This idea is inspired by the National Gallery's 'Take One Painting' scheme. Above is a photograph of the painting, which is nearly 2 and a half metres high and over 4 metres wide. However the first proof of the poster isn't to my liking and I need to use Photoshop to improve both the quality of the original photograph, and enhance the colour matching. 

The schools have asked for an A1 size poster, which means a fairly large increase to the size of the original photograph. Margaret Mytton took the original as we moved Dave's large paintings out of storage and had to rely on daylight streaming through what she described as 'Albion's grimy windows' - referring to the name of the mill in which they were stored rather than a Blakean reference to the state of the nation.     

Thursday, 3 February 2011

What was in the letter!

The letter from our solicitor explained that HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) have finally replied to their letter (replying to the query about the value of Dave's estate - given that no professional valuer would put a value on it at his death beyond saying it was 'nominal', or 'valueless'; and then a year or so later various tabloid reports were claiming among other nonsense that it was worth 'millions') sent in October. I have been copied in, as has Chris Pearson, Dave’s son and the third member of the Trust after Margaret Mytton and myself.

The messages in the letters are mixed – nobody is suggesting that anything has been done wrongly or misleadingly, but that’s almost where the good news ends. HMRC seem to have gone over the whole of the probate claim that Chris made and have even questioned the value of the two houses Dave owned (his house, and the studio).

The questions about the paintings, the artwork, are far more complex, and don’t seem to mention or place any value on the fact that we did try very hard to get professional valuations. HMRC want a ‘specialist unit’ to value the work, and I’ve been asked if I have a detailed catalogue of all the work that is unsold! The solicitor assumes this is going to be difficult. Dead right there! Elsewhere though it again mentions that the important value is ‘’at the time of death’ so everything remains ambivalent because the current value is, naturally, considerably more – after all the work the Trust has been doing (i.e. read this blog). So why value now when it isn’t the relevant figure?

Chris and I are seeking a meeting with our solicitors as soon as possible. This will be primarily about the Estate so we’re going as Executors.  Chris is desperate to get this sorted as quickly as possible so we shouldn’t hold anything up at our end. However I think it’s in the nature of HMRC to move at tortoise-like speed, so I can picture it dragging on for ages.

I still feel optimistic in the long run, but dread a long drawn-out period of suspense about all of these issues.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

What is in the letter?

This morning I received an email from the Trust's solicitor

"In respect of the estate of the late David Pearson, I have at last recently received a response from HMRC in reply to the letter I sent on the 29th October 2010.  In my letter to you I have enclosed a copy of their reply together with a copy of a letter I have received  today from the Valuation Office Agency along with my comments."

So - at last - a response to the issue of Estate Duty. In particular the fact that on Dave Pearson's death it was impossible for any 'expert' to give us a valuation beyond that it was 'without value'; yet within a year the tabloid press was claiming it was worth 'millions'. Hmmm - can't wait to read those letters.