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OUR COLUMNIST SCULPTURESTEPH COMMENTS ON MY ANTI-NOBILITY RANT (A PROPOS THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE IN WHICH I SUGGESTED HIM TO GET A JOB INSTEAD OF CARRYING ON SELLING ART THAT SHOULD REMAIN IN THE UK:

‘Well, yes and no.

I agree, he should have sold the contemporary works before the ‘old masters’, but there is also the reality of the cost of maintaining estates, buildings, etc…
Inheritance of a duke’s estate is just that- inheritance.
It may have incredible financial value but it is all locked up in the ‘objects’. To look after them and the building that houses them is very costly, not only for a short period of time but ongoing.
Many of these estates have no active income, and even with ‘a job’ I doubt it would be enough to finance this.
I don’t know much about this guy and his estate and/ or financial situation, and if his estate, building and collection has been or is open to the public to view, but at the end of the day if it’s his (or his family’s) he can decide what to do with it.

Restoring the building, re-gilding the finials is costly- but so is the continuous maintenance and care of a big collection of old paintings, sculpture and other artefacts.
And if the building is falling apart the collection inside won’t be safe.
It is also interesting that people get outraged about the sale of paintings- but don’t bat an eyelid if historic and/ or important buildings are left to decay and finally sold off for nothing to an opportunistic property developer, who has no obligation to preserve the building structure, style and often renovates it to a low quality shed of inferior and cheap building materials- breaking up the buildings set up and holistic function into 1 and 2 bedroom apartments…

Of greater concern in my opinion is that there are more and more public museums (mainly council run) who are selling off important parts of their collections (which are not theirs to sell-as they belong to the public) and/ or are considering to sell (a case in point is Croydon council museum with their sale of a collection of Chinese ceramics), to finance projects that should have been resourced with allocated finance and more ingenuity in the first place.

If we want art works to remain in the UK to be available to the public than we have to also share the responsibility to care for and look after them and the buildings that house them.
As long as this is another market industry and hence only doable by spending lots of money, I doubt that the suggestion to allocate public money to the care of some Duke’s private collection would find much support.

Since he has sole responsibility for the estate, building and family collection, it is up to him what he prioritises and to make the subsequent decisions of ‘managing’ his own ‘museum/ historic house, landscape and collection.’