Museums and the Art Market

Thos Agnew's and Sons, Manchester, London and Liverpool. Picture Label.
Thos Agnew's and Sons, Manchester, London and Liverpool. Picture Label.

Lead Researcher: Professor Helen Rees Leahy, University of Manchester.

Collaborating Institutions: Alan Crookham, Head of Research Centre, National Gallery.

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership student: Barbara Pezzini.

Project summary

The focus of this project is an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership between the University of Manchester and the National Gallery, London. Our student, Barbara Pezzini, is researching the archive of the art dealers Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd, which has been acquired by the National Gallery. The aim of her project is to investigate the relationship between Agnew’s and the NG by studying how an art dealer creates a market for their goods, and how a public collector, such as the NG, responds to this. Specifically, the research addresses questions relating to the history of the National Gallery's engagement with the art market, through evaluating the empirical evidence of the transactions of a particularly influential, successful and long-lived firm.

Helen Rees Leahy also co-organised a conference at the National Gallery, in April 2016, 'Negotiating art ǀ Dealers and museums 1855-2015'.

Diego Velázquez, The Toilet of Venus
Diego Velázquez, The Toilet of Venus ('The Rokeby Venus'),1647-51, bought by Agnew's and presented to the National Gallery by the National Art Collections Fund, 1906.


  • Rees Leahy, Helen, ‘Assembling Art, Constructing Heritage: Buying and selling Titian, 1798 to 2008’,  Journal of Cultural Economy, Volume 2, Issue 1 and 2, March 2009. pp. 135 - 149. (reprinted  in Tony Bennett, Chris Healy (eds) Assembling Culture, Routledge, London: New York, 2010. pp. 131-145.) 
  • Rees Leahy, Helen,  ‘New Labour, Old Masters’, Cultural Studies, Volume 21, Numbers 4-5, July/September 2007. pp. 695-717. 
  • Rees Leahy, Helen, ‘Desiring Holbein: Absence and Presence in the National Gallery’, Journal of the History of Collections, Vol 18. no. 1, 2007. pp.75-87.