The South Hampton City art collection was first acquired in 1911 after a bequest by local Councillor Robert Chipperfield, who strongly believed that art benefited the community at large. The collection has grown over the years to include masterpieces by Monet, Turner and Lowry. The core collection is British 20th Century and contemporary art and currently has 2,700 works and spanning eight centuries in its inventory.
Over the years as the collection increased in value, many of the works of art were put in storage, in a vault under the council offices, to avoid the high cost of insurance. Now the council has proposed a sell off of the collection. “The terms of the bequest mention that the council can use paintings or resources to ensure that the collection continues, however it always raises questions of inappropriate ‘selling off of the family jewels’. One other concern would be to only sell to another pubic collection.
The authority was slammed in 2010 over a proposal to sell off artwork on the open market in order to raise £5m to help fund the Titanic museum.”If pieces were sold from Southampton’s collection that sets a precedent for local councils and museums to sell pieces from collections to fund unrelated schemes and services.” The authority said it had no problem with a trust coming in, but pointed out it would “still have to raise the £2m”.
Resident Alex Lawrence has started a petition, calling for the works to be put into an independent trust taking away the council’s powers to sell. He stated: “Any sell off would be catastrophic and have damaging consequences. “All other avenues of funding need to be explored first. The collection belongs to the people of the city and it should be safeguarded. It should not be sold to prop up other council services, he added.