Art Fund objects to Lowry sale

  • 19 October 2006

The Art Fund has voiced concerns over Bury Council's plans to sell a painting by L.S. Lowry, The Riverbank, at auction on 17 November to help meet a budgetary shortfall.

Earlier this year we objected to their plans to sell the work. In a letter to The Times (20 February 2006), we asked whether sacrificing the heritage of current and future generations was really the best solution to the Council’s financial problems – pressing though they are.

Legally Bury Council can sell the Lowry but the sale will fall foul of the museum sector’s ethical guidelines as there is a ‘presumption against disposal’ – particularly if the aim is to generate funds. The Riverbank was bought by the Council in 1951 and is now valued at c. £500,000.

The painting has been on display at Bury Art Gallery for many years. If the council does not reverse its decision, not only will the people of Bury lose a significant work of art, their museum may also be stripped of its ‘accredited’ museum status. If so, the museum will no longer be eligible for grants from many external sources – including The Art Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund – either for capital projects or new works of art.

The Art Fund – along with the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the Museums Association – has written to the Council and the local press warning of the consequences of the sale. The issue has attracted a lot of attention – recently the Museums Association campaigned against the sale when giving evidence to a committee of MPs.

We will be monitoring the situation and maintaining pressure on the Council to reverse its decision.