Multimillion-Dollar Frank Auerbach to Be Sold by the UK’s National Crime Agency

A painting by the British artist Frank Auerbach from his lauded “Albert Street” series is slated to hit the auction block after having been recovered by UK authorities from money launderer Lenn Mayhew-Lewis, according to the Guardian.

Mayhew-Lewis bought the picture, which the UK’s National Crime Agency says could be worth “millions of pounds,” in 2017 for £1.6 million. Later, another unidentified person used the work as collateral to secure a £5 million loan from a UK-based auction house. 

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The work, titled Albert Street, 2009, is currently being held by the house in the event that there is an appeal against the forfeiture. Should the sale proceed, the NCA could walk away with up to 50 percent of the proceeds, with the remaining share going to the UK’s Home Office.

The record for an Auerbach at auction was achieved last year when Sotheby’s London sold his 1969 canvas Morning Crescent for £5.56 million ($7.1 million). The Courtauld Gallery in London just closed a show of Auerbach’s large scale portraits in charcoal, and a rare cache of his work is among the highlights of satellite exhibitions in Venice that run concurrently with the Venice Biennale.  

Mayhew-Lewis has been on the run since March 2023 after we was convicted of laundering money for organized crime outfits and drug traffickers. The NCA learned about the illicitly purchased work after issuing an amber warning to auction houses and art dealers, warning them “to be wary of money-laundering schemes and other criminal activity connected to fine art.”

In January, the office released a statement advising those who work in the art market to conduct “due diligence checks” so that they could “identify within their business any change in client status and suspicious activity,” including “money laundering, cultural property trafficking, or other criminality.”


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