Row over removal of six Foundling Museum trustees

Attorney General’s Office forced to intervene
Sharon Heal
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The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has intervened in a row about the removal of six trustees of the Foundling Museum in London.

The Coram foundation, the children's charity that set up the museum, changed the museum's charitble articles last year to allow it to remove trustees.

In May, it informed six trustees – including the artist Jeremy Deller and Jim Close, the former deputy director of the Victoria and Albert Museum – that they had been sacked.

In a statement the Coram foundation said: "Some former trustees of the museum felt things should be done differently and their opinions were, in view of the advice to the Coram board, considered incompatible.

"The work of former trustees in supporting the Foundling Museum over many years is greatly appreciated and the continuing museum board will recruit the vacancies in accordance with its constitution. There is no change in the governing structure or agreements and the organisations seek to collaborate on projects and activities wherever appropriate."

A spokesman for the AGO confirmed that it was in dialogue with the Coram foundation after trustees had raised concerns about changes to the charitable articles of the museum.

He said the AGO had written to the Coram foundation to raise "various provisional concerns" and had asked the foundation to provide further information in relation to these.

Concern has been expressed about the impact of the changes on the Foundling's collection, which includes works William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: "As a charity and funder of the museum, we're deeply concerned about the apparent goings on. We want to know what Coram's motivations are behind the sacking of the museum's independent trustees, and what it has to say to those of us who have supported the museum over many years."

Caro Howell, the director of the Foundling Museum, confirmed the dismissal of the independent trustees.

She added: "However, the work of the Foundling Museum continues as usual; exploring the history of the Foundling Hospital, which continues today as Coram, and celebrating the ways in which artists of all disciplines have helped improve children's lives for over 270 years."
 
The museum was established as a separate charity in 1998 to care for the Foundling Hospital Collection. It was given 25 years to raise funds equivalent to the market value of the collection to enable it to buy the collection from the Coram foundation.
 
The Coram foundation said the original collection and works owned by the museum were entirely under the control of the museum.

The six removed trustees:

Jeremy Deller - artist and former trustee of Tate; trustee of the Elephant Trust and Art Angel

Patricia Lankester - former director of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation; trustee of the National Gallery, Sage Gateshead and Tate

Jim Close - former deputy director of V&A; trustee of Handel House Museum

Sheena Vick - former deputy director of operations at the Heritage Lottery Fund

Spencer Hyman - former chief executive officer of Artfinder; general manager of Amazon

Charles Henderson - formerly at the Department of Trade and Industry; former chairman of Total Holdings



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