Skip to content

MGS concerned by suggestions that sale of paintings could fund Council shortfall

MGS concerned by suggestions that sale of paintings could fund Council shortfall

Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS), the national development body for museums and galleries in Scotland, is concerned by suggestions that Angus Council should consider selling items from its art collection to meet a funding gap.

Monifieth and Sidlaws councillor Ben Lawrie’s suggestion that the sale of two masterpieces by Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Younger should be “an option on the table” ignores the ethical implications of such a sale. Museum collections, founded on civic conviction, public investment, and the goodwill and support of donors, are an act of generosity from one generation to another. Even when legally owned by museum governing bodies, collections are primarily held in trust as cultural, not financial, assets. Those responsible for collections have a duty to protect and use these collections for the benefit of the public.

Financially motivated sale of any item from the Council’s museum collections would be in breach of the Museum Association’s Code of Ethics, putting the service at risk of being removed from the UK-wide museums Accreditation Scheme. The loss of Accreditation could affect the ability to apply for grant funding in the future as membership of the Scheme is a requirement for many major funding bodies across the UK, including MGS.

Joanne Orr, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland, said:

“MGS is disappointed by the suggestion from a councillor that Angus Council should consider selling items from its museums service collection as a solution to a financial issues.

We recognise that the current financial climate means that many museums’ governing bodies face difficult choices in trying to maintain services. Any museum or governing body considering the sale of collections as a solution to these difficulties is encouraged to contact MGS for advice on navigating their situation in a way that is both ethical and sustainable in the long term.”

Published 24 October 2017