Taxpayers subsidise paintings on Lloyd Webber's walls

Revealed: how the public helps millionaire composer enjoy Old Masters
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The Independent Online
Millions of pounds of taxpayers' money have been used to subsidise the purchase by a charity of some of the world's most expensive paintings, which then spend part of the time on the walls of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's house.

This unusual arrangement has been cleared by the Charities Commission.

The Independent on Sunday has established that the Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation, a registered charity which enjoys all the tax advantages of a charity, allows its pictures to hang for months at a time in the multi-millionaire composer's home.

Documents at the Charities Commission show Sir Andrew is a trustee of the charity, along with his wife, Madeleine, and Patrick McKenna, a business associate. It was set up in 1992 in time to buy Canaletto's The Old Horse Guards From St James's Park for pounds 10.12m. Since then he has had the work in his home for a total of five months. For this he paid the foundation pounds 3,892.

As it is a charity, the foundation does not pay any tax. Donations to it are deemed by the Inland Revenue as having been paid net of basic rate tax. The foundation is able to claim basic rate tax back from the Revenue.

Other pieces belonging to the charity have also spent periods at Sir Andrew's house in Berkshire. Accounts for 1994-95 show that Richard Dadd's Contradiction, Oberon and Titania was loaned to him for six months for pounds 5,212 and William Holman Hunt's Fairlight Downs, Sunlight on the Sea hung at his home, also for six months, for pounds 1,304.

According to papers filed when the charity was set up in 1992, the foundation exists "to advance the education of the public in the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the arts generally and in particular in the field of painting". For most of the time its works have been displayed at the Tate, National and other British galleries.

In 1995 the foundation paid pounds 18m for Picasso's portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto. The National Gallery said last week it had the work on loan for six months this year; the rest of the time it was with the foundation.

In addition to allowing Sir Andrew to have pictures in his home, the foundation has sold him a Burne-Jones from its collection. A spokeswoman for the Charities Commission said this was allowed if the price paid was above the market value, which it was.

Leslie Powell, a senior partner at Richards Butler, a leading firm of City solicitors, examined the publicly available papers on the foundation and said: "The dealings between Sir Andrew and the charity are unusual and so give cause for concern. Sir Andrew, as donor and trustee, is benefiting both in regard to the opportunity to take on licence or to purchase works of art bought by the foundation, and the terms upon which any such licence or purchase is made."

The spokeswoman for the Charities Commission said a trustee should not benefit from a charitable trust, but exceptions were made in "very occasional circumstances". When this charity was set up, she continued, "it was known at the time that Sir Andrew could have the paintings." If the paintings were not required by a museum, she said, the foundation faced a choice: to put them in a bank vault or "to lease them to Sir Andrew so it could get some money back".

A spokesman for Sir Andrew said: "Everything has been done in accordance with the law." All costs involved in having the paintings at Sir Andrew's home, he added, had been borne by the composer.