V&A Dundee turns down donation from strip club owner

Museum cites contradiction with its "core aims and values"
Patrick Steel
V&A Dundee has turned down a £1,000 donation from local businessman Tony Cochrane, the owner of 14 nightclubs including music venue Fat Sam’s and strip club Private Eyes.

Barry Ferguson, the museum’s director of philanthropy and partnerships, wrote in an email to Cochrane: “We have received a donation form this morning indicating that you wish to make a gift to V&A Dundee.

“We appreciate that, but after careful consideration we regret we will be unable to accept this due to the nature of some of your business interests being contradictory to V&A Dundee’s core aims and values.”

Cochrane told Museums Journal he had been approached by a representative of Dundee City Council who asked him to consider making a donation to the museum. Ferguson’s email followed two initial emails from colleagues welcoming the donation.

In his reply to Ferguson, Cochrane wrote: “I foolishly thought this was a museum that embraced the local community and culture but [was] obviously mistaken.

“I assume you have some issues with the fact I have a gentleman’s club within my portfolio of businesses. Extremely interested to know the criteria that makes Agent Provocateur, who have produced banned explicit erotic advertising films, a sponsor of the V&A exhibitions, but I am deemed unacceptable.”

Agent Provocateur sponsored the V&A’s exhibition Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear.

A spokesperson for V&A Dundee said: “V&A Dundee reviews donations in line with its aims as a charity, including advancing design and cultural creativity, education and citizenship. We may not accept donations if they do not match these criteria.”

According to the museum, no one from V&A Dundee approached Cochrane to seek a donation, or asked anyone to do so on their behalf.

“The Museums Association’s (MA) Code of Ethics asks museums to ‘carefully consider offers of financial support… and to seek support from organisations whose ethical values are consistent with those of the museum’,” said Alistair Brown, the MA’s policy officer.

“So a museum can be justified in refusing a donation that it deems not to be aligned with its ethical values, provided that the museum has a clear policy on donations and philanthropic giving. The fundamental goal is to preserve public trust in the individual museum, and the wider museums sector.”

Cochrane said the £1,000 was an initial donation, and that he had been considering increasing it to £10,000. “I’m still open to that conversation,” he said. “We want to be good neighbours and we think the museum is a good thing for the city. We will be giving the money to a local charity instead.”

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