Council scotches rumours that £5m painting could be sold off to raise cash

Batley’s most influential piece of artwork, Figure Study II, has gone on display.

Sunday, 21st August 2011, 4:00 pm

Previously left in storage, the contemporary painting by Francis Bacon, thought to be worth £5m, is up at Huddersfield Art Gallery until the end of the month.

The painting is affectionately known as Batley’s Bacon, as the Conteporary Art Society gave it to Batley Council in 1952. It was the first piece of Bacon’s work to be hung outside of London.

Because of this, current owners Kirklees Council are prevented from selling it, despite it being one of their most valuable assets.

A spokeswoman said: “The Contemporary Art Society purchased the painting and it was accepted by Ronald Gelsthorpe, the curator of the Bagshaw Art Gallery, on behalf of Batley Council in 1952. Because of this, there are restrictions that prevent the council from selling it on.”

Due to its high value, Huddersfield Gallery is the only building in the borough with the right conditions and security to display the painting.

A campaign to have it displayed in Batley Art Gallery failed due to the high security costs, but last February a replica was unveiled to adorn the gallery’s walls.

Figure Study II is an important piece in Bacon’s history as the artist destroyed much of his work from 1935 to 1944.