£19m art attack!

Reporter: Andrew Rudkin
Date published: 26 June 2013

SHOULD Oldham Council cash in on its art collection, worth close to £19 million?

The authority needs to save £19 million for the 2013-14 financial year, having already cut £100 million in the past years.

Selling paintings could ease the ever-tightening purse: three of the Oldham collections’ works are each worth £1.5 million.

But should Oldham treasure its heritage and its wealth of masterpieces for future generations?

The council’s latest annual report and accounts prices Oldham’s top 10 most valuable paintings at around £9.5 million.

They include Lowry’s “The Procession” worth £550,000 and William Orpen’s “Behind the Scenes” and “In the Dublin Mountains” worth up to £1 million each.

The council says it would have to consider very carefully the thought of selling off any part of the collection, which it currently intends to keep.

Oldhamer Kenn Winter thinks the paintings should go under the hammer - since some aren’t even on display.

“If it was me, these paintings would be on ‘Flog It’,” he said. “I’d keep the Lowry one and flog the other nine; there’s a lot of rubbish in these pictures.

“There’s one called ‘Circe’ worth £1.5 million - but what a Greek goddess has to do with Oldham I’ll never know.

“Valuable items should be kept on their merit and for the benefit of local people. There’s a picture of Cupid worth £500,000, three pictures of horses and one of gypsies. I’d be interested to know how many people in Oldham have actually seen these paintings.”

The heritage assets held by the council are exhibited or stored at Gallery Oldham.

The tens of thousands of items are mainly from the natural history, social history and fine and decorative art collections. The fine-art collection consists of over 450 oil paintings, watercolours, prints and photographic prints.

Councillor Jean Stretton, Oldham Council cabinet member for neighbourhoods and co-operatives, said: “The council holds this collection on behalf of the residents of the borough and many of the items were bequeathed or gifted to the people of Oldham. The council would have to consider very carefully any suggestion to sell off any part of the collection and at the present time we do not intend doing so.”

What do you think?

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Oil painting top 10

The most valuable items in the collection are oil paintings, notably the 10 works with their insurance valuations below:

::J W Waterhouse “Circe” — £1.5 million

::Stanhope Forbes “The Drinking Place” — £1.5 million

::A J Munnings “A White Slave” — £1.5 million

::William Orpen “Behind the Scenes” — £1.25 million

::William Orpen “In the Dublin Mountains” – £1 million

::Ernest Normand “Vashti Deposed” — £700,000

::L S Lowry “The Procession” — £550,000

::Walter Langley “The Tender Grace of a Day” — £500,000

::H. H L.A Thangue “The Appian Way” — £500,000

::Annie Swynnerton “Cupid + Psyche” — £500,000