Letters: Painting's not the only art, Sir Denis

Share
Related Topics
Painting's not the only art, Sir Denis

Sir: There was much to be thankful for when Sir Denis Mahon's generous bequest was announced ("A pounds 25m art gift to the nation ...with strings attached", 3 December). Not only will it transform the representation of Italian Baroque painting in our public collections, it will also embarrass the Government due to his stipulation that paintings must be withdrawn if museums are underfunded or sell works from their permanent collections.

But now that more details have emerged, the bequest gives cause for concern. Sir Denis's terms seem unacceptable - or at least, they ought not be acceptable to the National Art Collections Fund, which will own the paintings and ensure that his wishes are respected.

According to this month's Art Newspaper, the NACF will have to withdraw pictures from any institution which sold any painting from its permanent collection: "Sir Denis's condition refers only to the sale of paintings." Indeed, the donor proudly announced on the Radio 4 Today programme that he was a "paintings man" - as though this were a mark of distinction.

As it stands, if the National Gallery of Scotland or the Ashmolean were to deaccession their Bernini sculptures or Poussin drawings, the NACF would not automatically be obliged to withdraw the Mahon pictures they are receiving, whereas if they deaccessioned their Poussin paintings, it would.

As a charitable trust that acquires art in all media (recent acquisitions range from the Becket casket and a Chippendale writing desk to Canova's Three Graces and a video installation by Bill Viola) the NACF should not endorse a bequest that sanctions a hierarchy of art forms, with painting pre-eminent.

Its chairman, Sir Nicholas Goodison (a distinguished scholar of English furniture in general and barometers in particular), should ask Sir Denis to think again. It would be wrong if a bequest intended to draw attention to the philistinism of the British government should be marred by a philistinism of its own.

JAMES HALL

London SW11

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The traditional Boxing Day hunt in Lacock  

For foxes' sake: Don't let the bloody tradition of the Boxing Day hunt return

Mimi Bekhechi
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all