Petition on Herts County Council art collection sell-off triggers debate

PUBLISHED: 15:42 01 June 2018

Lake by Gabriel Couderc is also under threat as part of the consultation. Picture: Herts County Council.

Lake by Gabriel Couderc is also under threat as part of the consultation. Picture: Herts County Council.


Councillors will look again at controversial plans to sell off its public art collection on Tuesday (June 5) – after a petition to save the artworks was signed by more than 1,500 people.

Chimneys by Fred Uhlman. Picture: Herts County CouncilChimneys by Fred Uhlman. Picture: Herts County Council

Herts county council began buying artworks in 1949, so they could be loaned to schools across the county.

And over the years it has grown into an extensive collection of public art – including works by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and John Nash – with an estimated value of £26.2 million.

Last year the council drew up plans to dispose of 91 per cent of the 1,826 pieces of art in its collection, which could raise as much as £400,000.

But critics say this will mean many works by celebrated modern British artists will ‘disappear’ into private collections.

Now the petition is set to trigger a further debate on the future of the council’s public art collection.

It calls on the council to halt the plans to sell the artworks, to look at alternative ways to fund and manage the collection and to put the collection in trust for the benefit of future generations in Hertfordshire.

The founder of the petition said: “I started the petition because these are artworks in public ownership – and I felt they should stay in public ownership.

“They were purchased for the benefit of people in Hertfordshire and the people of Hertfordshire should continue to benefit from them.

“I have been really pleased that the petition has generated the amount of support that it has.

“There has been over-whelming support from people saying it should be retained and should not be sold. And I really hope that the council will listen to that and take note.”

Although the entire art collection has an estimated value of £26.2 million, just four of the items account for £21.85 million and have not been earmarked for disposal.

Under current plans up to 1,659 artworks could be sold or given to local groups, raising an estimated £400,000 – with 167 artworks being retained.

Money raised from the sale of the artworks would be invested in the remaining collection, the conservation and potential move of the nationally significant sculptures.

The council says there has been no resource to manage or to provide access to the collection since 2012. And they say that the works are at risk of deterioration.

The e-petition triggered the debate as part of the council’s petition scheme, where any petition with more than 250 signatures leads to a report being considered by Cabinet Panel.

Following consideration, the Panel could decide to refer the matter to Cabinet, make a recommendation to officers, request further work by officers or recommend that no further action is taken.

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