THE last few months have seen a dramatic increase in the number of works from provincial museums being sold on the open market as a result of government cuts.
With cash-strapped local authorities in different parts of the
country being forced to sell off their parts of their public
collections, this has yielded a greater supply of institutional
consignments which are being offered at auctions both inside and
outside of London.
Bolton Council for instance is selling 36 works of art from its
permanent collection housed in the town's museum. Sales have
already included three large 19th century British pictures sold at
recent Bonhams auctions.
Firstly, a picture of a woman sleep-walking from 1871 by Sir
John Everett Millais (1829-1896), entitled A Somnambulist,
sold at their 19th century art sale in London on July 13 for a
below-estimate £62,000. It was bought by Delaware Art Museum in the
US who were keen to add to their Pre-Raphaelite art collection.
Making an even higher sum at Bonhams Edinburgh on August 31 was
Robert Gemmell Hutchison's (1855-1936) Sea Gulls and Sapphire
Seas. Again selling below its estimate (in this case a punchy
£120,000-180,000), the 3ft 6in x 5ft 5in (1.06 x 1.66m) oil on
canvas nevertheless made the second highest price ever seen for the
artist when it was knocked down for £100,000.
It had originally been acquired by the council directly from
Gemmell Hutchison in 1912 for £150.
Both of these works had been on permanent display.
Another work from the Bolton collection sold at the same
Edinburgh sale - The Rivals by George Smith (1870-1934)
which made a top-estimate £3000.
With its budget being cut by £60m over the next two years, the
council said it had been forced to sell the works in order to fund
a new storage facility required at the museum. Under Museums
Association rules, such sales are only permitted in exceptional
circumstances so money can be raised towards improving the
facilities or remaining collection.
In all, the council is hoping to raise £500,000 and other
artists whose works are being disposed of are primarily 19th
century, such as Charles Napier Hemy (1841-1917) and William Powell
Frith (1819-1909). Bolton want to keep hold of more modern works
and those with local connections.
Meanwhile Leicestershire County Council has sold more than 300
works at auction since last November in the hope of raising
Most of the works were more modern examples which had been used
in schools, including three paintings by Paul Feiler (b.1918),
which sold for a combined £40,000, and a picture by Indian artist
Avinash Chandra (1931-1991) which realised £16,000.
Twelve lower-value works were offered at Bonhams in Knowle on
Tuesday last week.
With the council aiming to cut £79m from its budget over the
next four years, David Sprason, the county council's cabinet member
for Adults and Communities, said: "Like the rest of the country, we
are experiencing a tough economic climate at present and are
continuing to investigate different ways in which we can save
"The council is only disposing of items of artwork that have
been identified as surplus to requirements by schools. The money
realised from these sales will go directly towards supporting
Leicestershire's arts and heritage service."
By Alex Capon
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