Porcelain cake box, Wanli period 1573 -1619, Riesco Collection

Community group to challenge Riesco sale

Rebecca Atkinson, 22.10.2013
Judicial review given £10,000 boost from donor
A community group intends to submit a legal challenge to Croydon Council’s sale of the Riesco Collection after receiving £10,000 from an anonymous donor.

The council voted on 24 July to go ahead with the sale of the antique Chinese ceramics collection – meaning the three-month deadline to file a judicial review is this Thursday.

Steven Downes, the editor of the blog Inside Croydon, which is part of the group bringing the legal challenge, told Museums Journal the donation had enabled it to retain legal services to submit the challenge.

The community group will start accepting donations on its new website, riesco.org.uk, to help cover legal costs of an estimated £20,000. 

“We have to raise a serious five-figure sum so the concerns of the local community, who don’t want this collection sold in a pawn-shop sale pushed through by the council, can be properly and legally dealt with,” Downes said.

It is likely the judicial review will challenge Croydon's legal right to sell the collection based on information published by Inside Croydon that alleges the sale is against council policy.

A spokesman for Croydon Council said: “The council has acted legally as it is the absolute owner of the Riesco collection, as stated in the legal advice we received.

"The decision to sell a small part of the collection has been taken in exceptional circumstances for the future benefit of culture in Croydon.”

The auction of the 24 items from the ceramics collection is due to take place in Hong Kong next month. It is not clear whether the judicial review will disrupt the sale at this stage.

Maurice Davies, head of policy and communications at the Museums Association, said: “In view of the information that has come to light, I’m delighted that there is going to be a judicial review. This will give Croydon an opportunity to revisit the decision, which on reflection it may want to do.”


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24.10.2013, 11:56
Good luck to this community group and its actions! I am also glad you have money behind you which the Save Sekhemka Action Group does not. Well done for having highlighted the fact that Croydon Council does NOT own the Fairfield Halls and shame on them for not looking for grants elsewhere. A piece of advice to the group: be prepared to be BULLIED by the Council! Thanks to my campaign work for retaining Sekhemka I was forced to resign as Chair of the Friends of Northampton Museums & Art Gallery because the Northampton Borough Council would not work with the Friends as long as I was Chair; please note that the Friends are an independent charity that GIVES money to the museums, not a little society that gets hand-outs from the NBC. So good luck and do put the whole collection on the Art Loss Register.
24.10.2013, 10:17
It is most worrying that the museum sector and it's professional bodies have no ability to stop this transparent nefarious sale; which explodes all manner of 'Accreditation' and ethical standards.
The community group in question must be applauded highly for their determination and enthusiasm to keep such important heritage for public access. I only hope their expensive legal team will show such courage and determination to defeat this horrific back door deal. Moreover, it may be considered that any legal victory by those supporting the reasoning for the Riesco sale will very much pave the way for Local Authorities to empty their stores and galleries and put them on the trestle tables of the market place.
23.10.2013, 18:19
Croydon Council have sold parts of the Riesco Collection before in the 1980s. That does not excuse them selling the 24 pieces this time if it was indeed to be invested back into museums in Croydon or new acquiistions, but as we all know they closed the Clocktower Museum to save money and dismissed most of the staff who cared for the collection of 1500 watercolours and 500 oils and Riesco Chinese Ceramics. The fact is they are intending to use the money raised by the sale of another part of the Riesco collection in the refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls, which is NOT a Council owned building, and for which the Directors of the Halls have their hands out for this "grant" from Croydon Council; and therefore the question has to be asked, 'Do the Councillors who are pushing for this sale and the Directors of the Fairfield Halls have some unwritten agreements in place?'
23.10.2013, 16:14
Best of luck to Riesco.org.

N.B. From the Council statement, para. 3 from end "a small part of the collection"- numerically it may be a small part, perhaps a tenth (difficult to tell, given Croydon's record keeping), but in terms of cash value it will be a pretty large part. And in terms of aesthetic, technical and historical value, the largest part by far.
MA Member
23.10.2013, 14:43
I just gave a tenner to the campaign, which was very satisfying!
Rebecca Atkinson
MA Member
Online Publications Editor, Museums Association
23.10.2013, 10:47
Inside Croydon has published an update on its website about the judicial review - http://insidecroydon.com/2013/10/22/residents-demand-high-court-review-of-riesco-china-sale/