The Wallace Collection is to change its policy and loan out works of art from the gallery to other museums. In the past it was traditionally considered to be a ‘closed’ collection, the terms of Lady Wallace’s bequest do not expressly forbid lending or borrowing. Sir Richard Wallace himself loaned works extensively to other institutions in Paris and London, notably the Royal Academy and the Bethnal Green Museum. The conclusion reached by the Trustees and the Director is that temporary loans would not be going against the bequest and this would be entirely in keeping with Sir Richard’s desire to share great art with the broadest possible audience.
This is a transformative moment for the museum, which will enable us to deepen our understanding of the Collection
As the Wallace Collection resides in Sir Richard Wallace’s original home at Hertford House, Manchester Square, in central London, each loan request will be considered exceptionally carefully to minimise disturbance to its unique environment. Owing to these restrictions, the Wallace Collection will only be able to enter into loan agreements under exceptional circumstances.
The decision to lend works temporarily will enable the Wallace Collection to develop exciting new collaborations with museums across the UK and internationally, expanding public access to the museum’s exceptional Collection and encouraging new audiences to engage with its treasures. It will also provide exciting opportunities for scholarly research and enable the museum to remain a centre of curatorial excellence.
António Horta-Osório, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, stated: “This is a hugely significant moment in the history of the Wallace Collection and is the result of careful deliberations by the Board. Our successful programme of ground-breaking exhibitions, in which our masterpieces are showcased alongside related treasures from elsewhere, can now be complemented by an ability to lend our works to other great collections. This allows us to develop new collaborations at home and internationally, and will mean that the treasures of the Wallace Collection will be shared with an even greater audience. It represents a new chapter in the museum’s history and will ensure that the Wallace Collection continues to flourish and remains relevant for generations to come.”
Dr Xavier Bray, Director of the Wallace Collection, says: “I am thrilled we are announcing that the Wallace Collection will now be able to lend works of art. This is a transformative moment for the museum, which will enable us to deepen our understanding of the Collection and play a wider role within the international art historical community. This is not a decision that has been taken lightly by the Board, mindful as we are that the public loves the Wallace Collection for being an intimate house museum. However, to share our Collection with the widest possible audience, we believe that it is the right next step for the Wallace Collection and we look forward to expanding our horizons following the scale of the museum.”
Some have expressed concerns that the collection will become a vast ‘lending library’ of artworks which will be on a grand tour of global museums. A similar change of strategy has been bandied about by the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia which also had legal restrictions hindering their loan policy.