Sotheby’s London is offering for sale the collection of distinguished London club owner Mark Birley (1930-2007), on 21st March 2013.
The auction will comprise property from Thurloe Lodge, Birley’s home in Kensington for nearly 30 years, which encapsulated much of the elegance and charm of his celebrated clubs, from Annabel’s to Harry’s Bar. With over 500 lots spanning 12 different collecting disciplines, the estimates range from £50 to £250,000.
When Mark Birley founded Annabel’s in 1963, he revolutionised nightlife in London. After the austerity of the post-war years, a new generation of pop-stars, royalty and politicians flocked to the club’s elegant, luxurious and very private surroundings. Annabel’s was the first of such members-only clubs in London that did not require its members to wear dinner jackets, and openly welcomed women into a nighttime world traditionally dominated by men. Birley brought the ‘Swinging Sixties’ to London, inviting the leading stars of the day to perform – including Diana Ross, Ray Charles and the Supremes – and hosting legendary themed events.
Including works by Rossetti, Landseer and Munning, monogrammed table silver, superb bronzes and a bespoke Hermès backgammon board, the sale reflects Mark Birley’s love of understated luxury, entertaining and his dogs.
La Thangue’s Resting after the Game is one of the highlights of the sale. The portrait depicts his wife, elegantly posed in a wicker chair relaxing after a game of the newly popular lawn tennis. In the background sits their bloodhound Bor, wonderfully painted and no doubt a deciding influence in Birley’s decision to purchase the painting.
Many works by painter, illustrator and teacher John Ward are also an integral part of the auction. Ward, who was one of Birley’s close friends, made a number of watercolour drawings of the staff and interior of Annabel’s, and, in 1983 produced a triptych of the founding members to celebrate the club’s 20th anniversary. This watercolour is one of several studies of Annabel’s to be offered in the sale.
Henry Wyndham, Chairman Sotheby’s Europe Commented: “Sotheby’s sale of property from Thurloe Lodge provides a glimpse into the hidden world of one of the leading tastemakers of the 20th century. Although Mark Birley’s clubs were, and continue to be, internationally renowned, in reality he presided over a very private world. The selection of works on offer, from his cigar cases, to portraits of his beloved dogs and a treasured backgammon board, give a very personal glimpse into his extraordinary life.”