£1.4m art sale to fix leaking roof
Date: 26 Feb 2008 | | Views: 3110
Source: The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk), by Maev Kennedy
A small museum with a disastrously leaking roof is to sell two major paintings to safeguard the future of its collection.
The Watts Gallery's proposed sale of The Triumph of Love, by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, and Jasmine, by Albert Joseph Moore, together valued at up to £1.4m, is causing alarm among museums, which fear it will lead to pressure to plug holes in finances by selling works of art.
However, it has the blessing of the Museums Association, which initially threatened to cancel the Surrey gallery's registration as a museum if the sale went ahead. After a passionate debate at its last annual conference, the association has changed its guidelines to approve disposals in exceptional circumstances. The collection comprises scores of pictures and sculptures assembled as a memorial to the 19th-century artist GF Watts, once revered as "England's Michelangelo" but whose large, often spectacularly gloomy, symbolist compositions fell dramatically out of fashion after his death.
His widow, Mary, also an artist, was the driving force behind the gallery, which opened in 1904 in a now grade II* listed building in need of repair. The gallery is to introduce admission charges on April 1.
Gallery director Perdita Hunt said the decision was difficult, but meant the collection would be enjoyed by more people "for the foreseeable future".