Not only was Peter Langan a celebrated London restaurateur, he was also a passionate art collector. In the 1970s and 1980s, Langan welcomed a procession of celebrities to his Langan’s Brasserie and Odin’s, from Mick Jagger and Elton John to Roger Moore and Elizabeth Taylor. Surrounded by works from the likes of David Hockney and John Cosmo Clark, they were in good company.
A total of 220 works from the collection will be sold at Christie’s in London on December 18th in the 'Peter Langen: A Life with Art' auction, with ten additional works up for the buying within the Modern British Art Evening sale on December 12th, also at Christie’s in London.
As a renowned restaurateur to the stars, the Langan sale will grab much attention, though the most eagerly anticipated work across the two auctions is not actually part of the Langan collection: Laurence Stephen Lowry’s At the Mill Gate (Modern British Art Evening sale) is a familiar study by the artist of everyday life in a mid-twentieth-century northern city. Lowry’s skill was to recognise the hardships of such places at the same time as appreciating their beauty, which he manifested in a series of realist composite portrayals in which people and industrial architecture were equally central.
In At the Mill Gate, from 1945 (pre-sale estimate of GBP 1.2-1.8 million), a throng of people meander along a street, shoulders hunched forward, some pausing, others gathered together to chat. The figures are captivating, and the scene is not without a slight sense of pathos; but the eye is ineluctably drawn to the surrounding architecture: telegraph poles and a church spire dwarfed by the immediacy of the redbrick mills, their series of tall, elegant sash windows, and the giveaway chimneys, gently churning out a familiar smog-filled hue.
The world, however, was slowly changing, and by the time of Lowry’s death in 1976, such images would be well on their way to becoming little more than backdrops to a different kind of modern living – it was the same year Langan’s Brasserie opened in London, now seen as one of London’s first high-profile ‘celebrity’ restaurants.
More on the Modern British Art Evening sale, December 12th
Information about 'Peter Langen: A Life with Art' auction, December 18th