Art treasures may be sold to fund 'Titanic' museum

Proposed sale of publicly owned works would set dangerous precedent.

Trotting along a deserted beach; leading out a pack of hounds in a winter landscape; or locked together in the heat of the race; the elegant horses in Sir Alfred Munnings' renowned paintings speak of a quieter, more traditional Britain.

They are also, figuratively speaking, about to gallop headlong into a row that is engulfing Britain's art elite – including the chief executive of the Royal Academy of Arts, Charles Saumarez Smith, and the chairman of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and the former poet laureate Andrew Motion.

Southampton City Council, which holds one of the finest art collections outside London, is planning to sell Munnings's 1937 work After the Race – which is valued at around £4m – as well as Eve by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, which is worth about £1.5m, to help fund a museum dedicated to the Titanic, which will include a walk-around replica of the doomed ocean liner.

The plan has caused consternation in the art world, where strict rules apply over the sale of publicly owned works of art.

Critics fear that if the MLA, which polices Britain's public galleries, allows the sale it will set a precedent for local authorities up and down the country to ransack their collections.

There is also disbelief that the work – Munnings is considered one of the greatest painters of horses – will be sold to pay for a themed visitor attraction. Some critics argue that, as the Titanic sailed from Southampton only once, the city has a tenuous connection with the ship.

The plans are the first big test of the MLA's tough new guidelines on art sales, drawn up after Bury Council sold a Lowry for £1.4m in 2006 to plug a budget gap. The row could also embarrass the Heritage Lottery Fund – which is stumping up £5m of the £15m cost of the Sea City Museum.

"The Museums Association guidelines require that any sale of work should benefit the collection. There are no indications of this happening," Mr Saumarez Smith told The Independent on Sunday. "Instead, the funds are being used as matching funding for a maritime museum. I don't think HLF should be funding a new heritage attraction which requires sales of major heritage assets."

The HLF is understood to be aghast at the plans, however. A source said that the HLF would take a "dim view" if the painting was sold, and any sale could "put at risk" the £5m grant.

Councillor John Hannides, Southampton's leisure chief, argued, however, that the money will be used to enhance the collection.

"Building the museum will effectively provide a new wing for the gallery," he said. "I have made a presentation to the MLA's board, which is chaired by Andrew Motion. At the moment we can only display 250 of our 3,500 works at any one time. The new wing will allow us to display a further 100 works. The Sea City Museum will attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to Southampton."

A campaign – Save Our Collection – has been launched on the south coast to try to prevent the sale.

"The City Art Gallery is one of the most distinguished collections in the country and, where 20th-century British art is concerned, arguably the best outside London and thus one of the best in the world. What it lacks is sufficient support from the council and citizens of Southampton," said Edward Chaney, professor of fine arts at Southampton Solent University.

The art critic Brian Sewell added that although Munnings is currently unfashionable, that is a stronger reason not to sell.

"When you sell an unfashionable painting, the problem is you cannot buy it again when it becomes fashionable," he said.

"If you have a good Munnings, which they have, even if it's out of fashion, that's even more of a reason for hanging on to it."

News

literature

News
Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.

television

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing