Letter: Art treasure sales a 'betrayal of trust'

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Sir: The sale of some contents from Chevening, the official residence of the Foreign Secretary, next May 'to pay maintenance costs' ('Chevening sells contents to survive', 2 March), coupled with the sale at auction this month by the City of Manchester education committee from children's schools of 100 works by British artists - including an Augustus John and a John Piper - as confirmed by Peter Brooke, the National Heritage Secretary, in Parliament is a sad reflection on present day values across the spectrum.

It comes shortly after the Royal Holloway college has sold its seascape by Turner, to be followed shortly by a Constable and a Gainsborough. Bart's Hospital in London is contemplating selling two Hogarths, and Edinburgh University either a 17th-century landscape by Ruysdael or a 16th-century bronze by De Vries.

As the current epidemic of art sales from institutions gathers momentum, this generation's regrettable betrayal of trust by failing to conserve our cultural inheritance intact must inevitably raise serious doubts among present-day benefactors contemplating leaving their works of art for public enjoyment. Nor can their faith in the future be reassured by the reluctance of government departments (in the case of the Turner - the Charity Commission, the Attorney General and the Parliamentary Ombudsman) to intervene.

Yours faithfully,


H. Blairman & Sons

London, W1

2 March