Entertainment & Arts

Art donors say regional galleries need more support

Tracey Emin, Meow, 2005 Image copyright Whitworth Art Gallery
Image caption Tracey Emin's 2005 blanket titled Meow is currently on show at the Whitworth

Works by artists including Tracey Emin and Gilbert & George have been donated to Manchester's Whitworth art gallery.

Art dealers Ivor Braka and Thomas Dane have donated six works, saying they want to encourage more philanthropists to support regional galleries.

Mr Braka said contemporary art collections outside London were not up to the standard found in US cities.

British galleries - often "tired" and lacking the funds and ambition to match the US - also need to improve, he said.

The Whitworth, though, reopened earlier this year after a £15m redevelopment, leading it to be crowned museum of the year by The Art Fund and be shortlisted for the UK's top architecture award, the Stirling Prize.

Image copyright Whitworth Art Gallery
Image caption Gilbert & George's Race Hate is from their London Pictures series

The donation includes a large-scale blanket made by Tracey Emin and a series of posters created by Gilbert & George using newspaper headlines about racial tension.

Those two works were given by Manchester-born, London-based Mr Braka, who is known as a leading dealer of art created by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach.

Thomas Dane, who runs an eponymous gallery in St James's, London, has donated works by former Turner Prize nominees Anya Gallaccio and Rebecca Warren, as well as Michael Landy and Paul Graham.

Mr Braka said galleries in British cities had their heydays after being established by 19th Century philanthropists.

"They left a marvellous legacy both in building these museums and in terms of their collections," he said. "But there's been relatively very little in terms of contemporary art.

"In America, pretty much every major city - Detroit, St Louis, Chicago, Dallas, Forth Worth, Houston, LA, San Francisco, Seattle - they all have museums which could virtually be national museums in terms of their scope and their quality.

"This situation just doesn't happen in England and there are very few museums that have got the ambition to emulate that sort of level of excellence."

Image copyright Alan Williams
Image caption The Whitworth gallery reopened in February

Donors will only have confidence to give to galleries if their buildings are up to scratch, he said. "Coming from Manchester, I knew that one day I always wanted to do something for Manchester.

"I didn't want to give until I was secure that the gift would be well looked after, and I didn't feel that the Whitworth in its old guise was a place would have necessarily given to.

"But having seen the new development and specifically its storage facility, you know that what you give to them is going to be well looked after. You'd be confident that in 200 years time it will be in good condition.

"And the gallery space is magnificent at the Whitworth - it's no accident that it won museum of the year."

There has not traditionally been the same culture of giving among wealthy individuals in the UK as there is in the US, Mr Braka added.

"There is a lot of money out there in Manchester - a lot of inherited wealth and self-made entrepreneurs, and you've got Manchester City and Manchester United footballers as well.

"I don't know whether they need to come to the museum or maybe there's just not been enough outreach in England to try and target people to take an interest ion the visual cultural life."

Mr Braka also praised Whitworth director Maria Balshaw, who said: "We are thrilled by this important gift.

"Acquiring major works by contemporary artists is perhaps the biggest challenge facing UK public collections today and it is where collectors can offer the greatest help to galleries."

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