Detail from LS Lowry's Huddersfield (c) Huddersfield Art Gallery

Kirklees Council votes against collections sale

Patrick Steel, 19.02.2014
Proposal is turned down at council meeting
Councillors at Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire voted on Wednesday against a proposal to review its art collections with a view to selling off some works.

The collection includes works housed at Huddersfield Art Gallery by LS Lowry, Francis Bacon and Henry Moore, and is valued at over £36m.

Mehboob Khan, leader of the council, told the BBC last Sunday that the council was talking to officers and experts "for advice on what to hold onto and what we could safely sell".

Any decision would be made "in an open and transparent manner by full cabinet", he added.

A council spokeswoman said that the proposal was put forward by the local Conservative group during a budget meeting on Wednesday: "This amendment was put by the group to a full council meeting to decide the budget and was defeated.

"There is no council proposal to further investigate selling the artwork."

Museums Journal understands that Khan is stepping down as leader later this month.

Also speaking to the BBC on Sunday, former shadow culture secretary Dan Jarvis said: "It's a tough time to be in local government and that's why we are having this debate about whether works of art should be sold off.

"We have to be extremely cautious about getting rid of a cultural legacy and inheritance for the next generation, but also something that is very important to people and contributes to towns and cities being the kinds of places that we want people to live in and we want people to come and visit."

The decision by Kirklees Council follows a call last November from opposition councillors at Bradford Council, also in West Yorkshire, to sell off some of the art in its collection, valued at over £44m. The council’s leadership dismissed the idea saying that one-off sales would not be used to fund ongoing services.

Maurice Davies, the Museums Association's head of policy and communications, will be speaking at a debate next month over calls for Southampton City Council to sell from its collection to fund projects in the city.

Update
27.02.2014

The Southampton City Council debate has been cancelled.

Comments

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Judith Martin
Project Organiser, Industrial Buildings Preservation Trust
26.02.2014, 16:21
The debate next month that you mention has been cancelled, as there was dismay that a subject that has engaged so many local people was to be discussed at the cost of £40 per head. The event was being, as I understand, promoted by the local paper which has long been the cheerleader to flog the entire collection, and preferably turn the gallery into an icerink, or maybe a football pitch - I exaggerate but only very slightly. I wonder how many times the council, of whichever colour, takes to understand 'no'.
Meanwhile, three cheers for Kirklees, who will have some family silver left when the current cold winds have ceased to blow.