A charismatic art expert who defied Russian authorities to recover a missing collection of Impressionist masterpieces has died suddenly aged 64.
Peter Batkin, who was a director of Sotheby’s auction house, passed away in hospital last Friday after suffering a stroke. His funeral was held on January 14.
Born in Ealing, west London in 1953, Mr Batkin abandoned a short-lived career as a dentist to become a porter at Sotheby’s, working his way up to become a senior figure at the internationally renowned auctioneers.
His crowning achievement came in the 1990s when he convinced Russian authorities to hold the first post-Soviet fine art auction during the newly-formed Russian Federation’s period of glasnost. Among the artworks he uncovered were priceless masterpieces by Renoir, Degas and Manet.
His widow, Judith Kellermann, said: “Peter was an amazing man. His work had repercussions world-wide, but he also touched people’s lives in a very personal way.
“He was always very caring to everybody, and he was always very good to me.”
So sad to hear that dear Peter Batkin passed away this morning pic.twitter.com/7scVM4klsi— Brian Clivaz (@BrianClivaz) January 12, 2018
After retiring from the art world, Mr Batkin pursued an interest in film-making, working on an exposé on corruption in marathon running, and later established a commercial cleaning firm, Bespoke Cleaning, with Dr Kellermann.
A member of Belsize Square Synagogue, Mr Batkin was “very proud” of his Jewish heritage, his widow said.
Elsewhere, on the London social circuit, he was known for his flamboyant dress sense and his love of rare cigars, and belonged to a number of dining clubs.
The Eccentric Club, which awarded Mr Batkin with the 'Greatest British Eccentric of the Year' prize in 2013, paid tribute to a “true gentleman and a caring soul”, adding that the club “will not be the same without his hearty laughter”.
Mr Batkin is survived by Dr Kellermann, his widow, and children Tobias and Alice.