Campaigners are calling on the government to create an independent trust to prevent Southampton City Council selling off artworks from its public collection.
In the latest case of councils considering 'selling off the
family silver' from collections donated long ago, to raise funds
amid sharp budget cuts, the protesters fear items could be put on
the market to help pay around £1.5m-2m costs for repairing the city
art gallery's roof.
The Save Our Art petition is "to ask the British Government to
help save Southampton's art collection by creating an independent
trust to safeguard it and to take away the threat of pieces being
sold by Southampton City Council".
It says it would be a "test case for all British publicly owned
art". It comes after a series of similar sell-offs or potential
auctions, with the sale of 24 items from Croydon's Riesco
Collection of Chinese ceramics at Christie's last year being the
On www.change.org, Save Our Art say: "This is a
highly important case for all publicly owned art in the country
because if any pieces from Southampton's collection are sold it
will open the floodgates and change the way that all public art is
handled. It is a test case and being watched by authorities and
museums across the UK and there is potential to create ripples
across the country's publicly owned art collections."
The petition calls for "a truly independent trust" to be sole
custodians of Southampton's collection. "It is then hoped that this
would set a positive precedence for collections in public ownership
to follow so they are cared for, enhanced and used to their full
potential with no conflicting influence motivated by financial or
A Southampton resident, Alex Lawrence, started the petition,
according to the BBC.
Southampton's art collection began with the Chipperfield
Bequest. Robert Chipperfield (1817-1911) was born in London and
moved to Southampton aged 26, to develop his chemist's business. A
wealthy man when he died, he was determined that his money would
benefit his adopted town. Southampton's overall collection now has
about 2700 pieces with a core of British 20th century and
contemporary art, such as works by Paul Nash, John Piper, Gwen John
and Graham Sutherland.
The council said the terms of the bequest meant works could be
sold to benefit the display of the existing collection, and this
would cover roof repairs. The Modern British core of that
collection would be kept and any sales had to go to another public
Museums Journal reported that the council's
cabinet member for economic development and leisure services, Matt
Tucker, said the petition was full of inaccuracies and an
independent advisory committee would prevent any clash of interests
"arising from the fact that councillors are also trustees".
He added: "The implication from the petition is that any funds
from sales would fund non-art gallery projects. However, that is
not our intention and any funds from fundraising campaigns or (as a
last resort) sales, would remain in the Chipperfield Bequest bank
account, rather than the council's general fund."
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