Lowry collection set to raise £5million
PUBLISHED: 08:33 27 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:54 20 February 2013
Lancashire betting shop legend Selwyn Demmy is selling his remarkable art collection. Roger Borrell reports
The word magnate has become a clich attached to anyone successful in business. But for Lancashires Selwyn Demmy, it seems to fit.
During a remarkable career he built up and then sold three formidable chains of bookmakers shop and his world was one of betting, boxing and nightclubs. He was a familiar figure across the north west, often pictured socialising with the rich and famous.
But there is a much softer side to Selwyn Demmy and that is about to be revealed in an extraordinary art collection.
He was born in Cheetham Hill in Salford in 1932, a short stroll from the home of L.S. Lowry. That connection is something that has dominated his recent life. For me, the works of Lowry have a very powerful personal resonance as they capture the heart and soul of the people and landscape which I have loved all my life.
His passion resulted in Selwyn building up an impressive collection of 21 Lowry works and on November 11 they will be auctioned at Christies in London. The quality of the collection is confirmed by the fact Christies experts expect it to raise more than 5 million.
Selwyn, the son of a bookmaker of Polish descent, added: This collection of paintings and drawings has brought me huge pleasure over the years.
However, art is not my only passion and, as many know, I have been committed to improving the lives of destitute animals for many years. It is now time for these wonderful art works to bring joy, contemplation and friendship to new homes, while I focus my full attention on the animals which, like the famous stick dogs that scamper throughout Lowrys paintings, bring me great happiness
Highlights within these diverse and significant works include The Playground, painted in 1945, with an estimate of 500,000-700,000.
Selwyns father, Gus, was one of the great pioneers of racecourse betting and, in spite of his best efforts to persuade his son to become a lawyer, bookmaking was clearly in the boys blood.
He turned out to be a remarkable entrepreneur, building up the first chain of 75 Demmy bookmakers shops over 20 years before selling out to Ladbrokes in 1982. His retirement to Monte Carlo didnt last long and he returned to England where he established Demmy Racing before selling to the Stanley Leisure group in 1993. Six years after founding his third chain of 37 shops, he sold out to Fred and Peter Done.
Selwyn also ran a thriving boxing operation with his father, staging bouts at Belle Vue, the Free Trade Hall, Liverpool Stadium and bringing title fights into the Odeon Cinema, Manchester. Selwyns circle of friends began to include the rich and famous such as George Best. He bought and developed the famous Blinkers club with his brother, Harvey, where the guest list included the likes of Mick Jagger, the Who, Tom Jones and Lulu.
Now, his life is devoted to the more peaceful pursuit of animal welfare.