Selling of artwork ‘short-sighted’
AN Angus councillor has backed down from a controversial suggestion that the authority should consider flogging off its multimillion-pound cultural gems.
Monifieth and Sidlaw Lib Dem Ben Lawrie has now said the sale of Arbroath’s valuable Pieter Brueghel the Younger paintings would be “shortsighted”, although he suggested they could still be rented out.
The apparent U-turn follows months of debate on the subject which flared again when the Scottish Government was urged to introduce a moratorium on the sale of council-owned cultural assets.
Mr Lawrie said: “I agree that the outright sale of council-owned art work would be short-sighted.
“There are options such as renting them out, so that they can be put on display for the public while the council raises some income.”
Angus Council owns two paintings by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, worth in excess of £2 million each, which are on display at Arbroath Library.
Five other works, worth a total of £670,000, are not on display.
Mr Lawrie previously called for a debate on their sale, prompting Arbroath Independent councillor David Fairweather to say he would “strangle” anyone who suggested off-loading the “family treasures”.
Mr Fairweather has now called for a Scotland-wide moratorium, prohibiting the sale of cultural assets without ministerial approval.
He said: “Quite rightly, the suggestion that these magnificent paintings could be sold was met with an immediate and sustained backlash.
“Councils are struggling to deliver services and may begin to look at the sale of important cultural assets in order to make ends meet.
“However, the proceeds of any sale would only be a temporary fix at best, and would soon see a local authority back to square one — minus the cultural assets they started with.”
Museums and Galleries Scotland chief executive Joanne Orr said: “A financially motivated sale of any item from the council’s museum collections would be in breach of the Museum Association’s Code of Ethics, putting the service at risk of being removed from the UK-wide museums accreditation scheme.”
Ben Lawrie with one of the paintings.