Thursday, November 16, 2006

Is your Local Council looking after your/our Heritage?

I heard on Frontline [BBC Radio 4] this evening that Blackburn Council is selling a Lowry painting in an attempt to balance their books.
No doubt some of the local citizenry will think this is a good idea, but I wonder if the town's been consulted about this.
For short term gain the community will lose a long-term important cultural icon.

What would be the position if this became common practice throughout the land?

How much would the public/nation be prepared to lose - much would likely disappear into private ownership and abroad. You can only mount a finite number of campaigns to keep artworks etc in public ownership or in the country. The more items which get threatened in this way the harder it will be to save important items.

There have been a number of items on You & Yours [also BBC Radio4] in recent weeks - usually on Fridays - about the problems surrounding public art and the abuse (by galleries and councils) of the terms of acquisition/bequest has been a problem particularly highlighted.

One example I recall - Birmingham (I think) City Art Gallery and Museum secretly sold some examples of a fine Victorian landscape artist when such art was not particualrly fashionable in the Fifties at pittances (eg tens of pounds per piece). This was only discovered when descendents of the bequester went to visit the gallery and enquired about the collection having found the art not on show. These paintings are now worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and are in private hands and mainly untraceable.

Here in Brighton, do local residents actually know what we own as a town? [Same question to residents of other towns.] I know about Dali furntiure and other Surrealist artifacts but what treasures are salted away due to lack of exhibition space? How convenient if when they are forgotten the council decides to flog some of these treasures to pay for one of their hairbrained schemes or even something quite sensible.

Perhaps we should demand an inventory to be published in the local press so that we can see what we own and decide what we need to see more often etc Let the populus decide rather than the Councillors, their staff and academics in the institutions. We also need to know what responsibilty we hold to specific artifacts especially those which have been bequested.

I'm beginning to ramble but I guess I've made my point.

Let's all make a resolution to find out what's in our community and make sure it's not lost, stolen or ruined.



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