Petition to halt Southampton City Council art sell-off plans

Southampton City Art Gallery Many of the works of art are kept in storage in a vault under the council offices

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Opponents of council plans to sell works of art from Southampton's £150m collection have launched a petition.

The city council wants to sell up to two high value pieces to pay for roof repairs to the city's art gallery, estimated at £2m.

Save Our Art is calling for government action to create an independent trust to safeguard the artworks.

The collection includes works by Turner, Lowry, Monet and is valued at between £140m and £150m.

Councillor Simon Letts said: "The core of the collection is modern British art [and] those pieces won't be disposed.

"It will be one or two substantial pieces that are not part of its main reason to exist."

Southampton's collection

  • Currently comprising 2,700 works and spanning eight centuries
  • The core collection is British 20th Century and contemporary art
  • Monet: The Church at Vétheuil (1880)
  • Turner: Fishermen upon a Lee Shore in Squally Weather (1802)
  • Lowry: The Canal Bridge (1949)

The collection was started in 1911 with a bequest to the city by Councillor Robert Chipperfield.

"The terms of the bequest tell us that we can use paintings or resources to ensure that the collection continues. But we need to sell to another pubic collection," Mr Letts said.

"The Museums Association and the Arts Council are supportive of that proposal."

'Catastrophic consequences'

Southampton resident Alex Lawrence has started a petition, calling for the works to be put into an independent trust taking away the council's powers.

He said: "Any sell [off] would have catastrophic and damaging consequences.

"All other avenues of funding need to be explored first. The collection belongs to the people of the city and it should be safeguarded. It should not be sold to prop up other council services.

"If pieces were sold from Southampton's collection that sets a precedent for local councils and museums to sell pieces from collections to fund unrelated schemes and services."

The authority said it had no problem with a trust coming in, but pointed out it would "still have to raise the £2m".

In 2010, the authority was criticised over its proposal to sell off artwork on the open market in order to raise £5m to help fund the Titanic museum.

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