Edinburgh University art sale challenged

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

COURT action has been taken to stop Edinburgh University selling off works of art worth millions of pounds from its collection.

The Lord Provost of Edinburgh and the Sheriff Principal of Lothian and Borders are seeking to prevent the sale of Cane and Abel by Adriaen de Vries, the 16th century sculptor. It forms part of the Torrie bequest in the university's Talbot Rice gallery.

Lord Provost Norman Irons said yesterday that the university did not consult the trustees of the Torrie bequest - a collection that includes some 100 works of art left to the university in 1824 by Sir James Erskine of Torrie. Most of the works, both paintings and bronzes, date from the 17th century.

Although the four trustees nominated by Erskine are, of course, no longer alive, the Lord Provost emphasised that, according to the terms of the bequest, future Lord Provosts and Sheriff Principals were ex-officio trustees. He said that until the legal position had been cleared, a petition had been lodged with the Court of Sessions seeking to overturn the original ruling, last June, that allowed the university to proceed with the sale.

Duncan Macmillan, curator of the Talbot Rice gallery and the university collections, said the sale would be a 'means to endow the collection, which has no resources'. He said the press has been wrong to imply that works of art were being sold to wipe out the university's pounds 5m deficit.

He warned that 'other university collections are going to be in this position soon, unless they have endowments'.

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