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People and Business: A large sum of Monet

MONET IN the 20th Century", which had its press day at the Royal Academy in London today, is the latest blockbuster art exhibition to be sponsored by Ernst & Young, following the accountancy firm's success with "Picasso Sculptor-Painter" (1994), "Cezanne" (1996) and "Bonnard" (1998).

And while Monet's waterlilies and views of the Thames at the RA form E&Y's biggest ever sponsorship, the firm's partners also found the cash to back a major David Hockney exhibition in Paris, opening this week.

So, I asked Nick Land, E&Y's UK chairman, how much is all this costing?

"I hate to think what it all comes to," Mr Land said. Well, how about the annual budget for arts sponsorship? "I honestly don't know - hundreds of thousands - not into the millions - a pretty sizeable slug."

Not the kind of accuracy with figures one would expect from a senior accountant.