Have you ever wandered around a big art gallery or museum and checked where all these great works of art have come from? Often there are a huge proportion of works which have been lent, borrowed or donated from private collections from throughout the world. In fact if you took away these pieces and left those purchased directly then many museums and galleries would be virtually empty!
There are examples through the world of the generous donations or bequests from collectors across the world. In the UK, I’ve just seen a new report about the art collector Sir Denis Mahon, it was on the BBC were you’ll need this to change your IP address outside the UK. He died about two years ago and he is well known for his support of the arts and his collection of Italian old masters.
Hi will has just been published and in it, he has donated the collection in perpetuity to several museums and galleries across the United Kingdom.
- eight works to the National Gallery of Scotland
- 25 to the National Gallery in London
- 12 to the Ashmolean in Oxford
- six to the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge
- five to the Birmingham Art Gallery
- one to Temple Newsam House in Leeds
These are worth an absolute fortune and is one of the most generous gifts of art in the UK’s history. However there are some very important strings to these gifts. For example if any of the galleries starts to charge for admission or tries to sell any of their permanent collection then the works have to be returned to the Art Fund – an independent charity for art.
It’s matched what Sir Denis spoke up for when he was alive. He has frequently threatened to take his priceless collection abroad whenever the British Government has suggested charging for museum access or something similarly commercial.
The free and open access to works of art or antiquity is often something that unites these collectors of precious things. They may spend huge amounts of money on collecting works of art only to give them away, but they nearly always try and ensure it remains in the public domain and not in some private collection sold to finance some commercial enterprise.
It’s a great program and worth trying to catch on the BBC, through it’s iPlayer application. Unfortunately you will need a British proxy – video here, to gain access due to the BBCs restrictions on access to all those residing outside the United Kingdom. Perhaps we should have asked Sir Denis to have a word with them too.