Sell off hidden art, says councillor

HIDDEN TREASURE Francis Bacon's Figure Study II.
HIDDEN TREASURE Francis Bacon's Figure Study II.

Kirklees Council’s art treasures could be sold off to raise money for services, a councillor has suggested.

Conservative deputy leader Coun David Hall (Liversedge and Gomersal) claims the council could raise as much as £600,000 by selling off just two per cent of its fine art collection.

The collection – which includes Francis Bacon’s Figure Study II, known affectionately as Batley’s Bacon, among its 3,000 pieces – is worth around £29.5m, according to Kirklees accounts.

But only 15 per cent of it is on display.

Now the Kirklees Conservative group is calling for the council to investigate selling off two per cent of its collection to raise much-needed funds to preserve local services as part of its budget proposals.

Coun Hall said: “A discussion is needed on why we continue to have these extremely valuable works of art in a vault, not on display, doing nothing, as opposed to selling them off and raising money to invest in services in the Kirklees area.”

Coun Hall said the council could not afford the insurance required to display Batley’s Bacon, so called because it was given to Batley Council by the Contemporary Art Society in 1952, and was the first piece of Bacon’s work to be hung outside of London.

Because of this, there are restrictions that prevent the council from selling it on.

Figure Study II was briefly displayed at Huddersfield Art Gallery – the only building in the borough with the required conditions and security – in August 2011, but is currently in storage.

As well as the Bacon painting, the council owns paintings by Lowry, Auerbach and Martin, and a sculpture by Henry Moore, which are not on display.

Coun Hall said the council should “start small” and consider which pieces of art it could keep, and which it could dispose of.

Historian Malcolm Haigh said, if there were no restrictions, he would back the sale of Batley’s Bacon – provided the cash raised was spent in Batley.

“When the town first got it a lot of people didn’t like it,” he said.

“For ordinary people in Batley, it wouldn’t be one of their choice pieces but its value is immense.

“Rather than have it sat in a vault somewhere, I would back its sale on the condition that the money was used to improve Batley – part of it to reopen the public toilets in the market place.”]

lWhat do you think? Do you think Batley should save its Bacon?

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