Funding the Future of Art in Britain; Have You Ever Wondered How Our Galleries Are Filled with Great Art and Antiquities? Laura Davis Explains

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), December 4, 2006 | Go to article overview

Funding the Future of Art in Britain; Have You Ever Wondered How Our Galleries Are Filled with Great Art and Antiquities? Laura Davis Explains


Byline: Laura Davis

IMAGINE an art gallery with blank spaces where an Old Master or famous landscape should hang. Silence in the Royal Academy of Music instead yalof a haunting melody played on an exquisitely-crafted violin.

A museum filled with empty cases that should have held ancient Chinese vases and Anglo Saxon swords.

Without generous donations from wealthy individuals tionsand members of the public, this spartan image would be a reality

During the Victorian era a reand the first half of the 20th century paintings, artefacts and generous sums of money were often bequeathed to galleries ftenand museums by wealthy landowners, merchants and entre preneurs.

Since World War II, however these institutions have come erto rely more and more upon donations from the general public.

Many of these have come through the Art Fund, a omenational organisation with a strong following in Merseysideong, which hands out pounds 4m in grants, eacwh ye a r.

"The work we do is important because we save lots of things which otherwise would go out of the country," explains Pego ter Woods, the organisation's Merseyside secretary

"The Art Fund gives everyone a chance to contribute to this eryoneby paying a subscription and fundraising at a local leandvel People at grassroots level can help an awful lot.

"There are also options for wealthier people to come in forand give larger contributions "

Were it not for the little ."heart-shaped symbol on the information card next to each work the Fund has helped eacbuhy nobody would have any idea buof how it came to be on public display.

Yet, since it was established in 1903, the Art Fund has helped to save more than 850,000 pieces for collections in the UK.

The organisation, which aims to prevent British works frh om being sold to private collections abroad, has also helped many Merseyside galleries and museums to purchase pieces

A nude bronze, called The Sluggard, created by English classicist painter Lord Frederic Leighton in 1890, is nod w Framong Liverpool University's aramongt collections thanks to a arpounds 1 875 donation from the Fund a pounds 1,875(it was worth a total of pounds 7,500).

The Atkinson Gallery in Southport was able to buiny the Portrait of Francis Stanley buy, the by Irish painter Reverend Matthew William Peters, after receiving

pounds 587 grant towards the pounds 2 500 total cost.

A bronze horseman, from the mid-16th century, was among many pieces that World Museum Liverpool has been able Museumto afford due to Art Fund donations It was given to John Swainson, a British trader, by the Oba (King) Ovonramwen as a wedding present in 1892.

"It's not just about saving pieces for the nation but it's also about galleries improving their collections and buying things with a budget they couldnthings't normally run to," says Woods who co-owned the well-knoWoodswn Ryan Wood Antiques on Seel Street before it closed in the summer of 2005.

"Galleries, museums and collections with museum andstatus can appeal to the Art Fund for help.

"Grants can normally be up to as much as 50% of the purchasing price."

The organisation also deals with works that have been bequeathed to gallerieseen, by acting as a go between.

Six drawings by George Louis du Maurier for the satirical magazine Punch were donated to the Atkinson Gallery in donathis watoy, as was a collection of books owned by shipping magnate George Holt, to the Liverpool libraries service.

The vigorous procedures that the Art Fund goes through es befthaorte agreeing to contribute to the befcost of a work means that other funding organisations are often likely to take this as a litmuse oftentest before adding their own donations.

"There is a committee of experts who all have a lot of experience of experin different specialities in the art world," says Woods, whose favourite Art Fund saveosed pieces includes the 19th-century oil painting, Woman Ironing, oilby Edgar Degas. …

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