Bury goes ahead with Lowry painting sale, despite protests

Bury council has Set a date for the sale of the LS Lowry painting A Riverbank, despite protests by the …
Paul Stump
Bury council has Set a date for the sale of the LS Lowry painting A Riverbank, despite protests by the Museums Association and a warning by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) that the Bury Museum and Art Gallery, where the painting is currently housed, could lose its accreditation if the sale goes ahead.

The painting, bought by the council for £175 in 1951, but now thought to be worth about £750,000, will be sold at auction next month to help plug a £10m deficit in council finances.

Mark Taylor, the director of the Museums Association, said: 'If Bury decides to go through with this sale, then it is the thin end of the wedge. It is wholly unethical. The Museums Association exists to uphold ethics and standards.

If an establishment drives a coach and horses through those standards, as Bury seems bent on doing, then we will take the necessary steps to discipline them, which would include expulsion from the association.' If the museum loses its accreditation, it could have a serious impact on any future applications for Heritage and Lottery funds.

President of the MA, Charles Samuarez- Smith, wrote privately to the council in August detailing the association's concerns, but has yet to receive a reply. Staff at the museum were unwilling to comment, but the leader of the council, Wayne Campbell, said in a statement: 'We are devastated that we have been forced to realise funds from our art collection in order to meet the budgetary shortfall, but the alternatives such as redundancies and closures of valued services were equally as unpalatable.'

Paul Webb, of the North-West branch of the MLA, said: 'We're very disappointed. We are aware of the good work Bury Museum and Art Gallery does and we will not take action unless the auction goes ahead.'

The only expulsion from the MA to date occurred in 1991 when all the museums under the jurisdiction of Derbyshire County Council had their membership revoked after a similar sale of artworks to balance a council budget.

Paul Stump

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