Alfred and Clementine Beit loved Ireland. They loved Ireland so much that they left us their treasure, Russborough House and one of the most priceless art collections in the world. It was their dying wish was that the collection be ‘preserved for the future enjoyment of the Irish people’: an incredibly generous and visionary gesture from an English businessman and his Irish wife. Can we honestly consider selling it? Are we destined forever to ‘fumble in the greasy till’?
Irish arts need patronage: never moreso than now, when our national galleries have been without acquisition funds since to build collections since 2010. As the Irish Government and the people successfully re-build our economy, it might be wise to cast an eye to the Irish soul. The Beit collection is ours. It was gifted to us. It is staggering in its beauty and its brilliance. It belongs to our children.
The National Campaign for the Arts (NCFA) is calling on the Government, and particularly the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, to increase its efforts to halt the sale of the Beit Paintings and keep them in Ireland.
In addition to two already sold, another seven paintings due to be auctioned on July 9, including two by Old Master Peter Paul Rubens, which were left in trust for the benefit of the Irish people by Sir Alfred and Lady Beit. The NCFA is calling on the Minister to work with the Beit Foundation to withdraw these works from auction, to keep the remaining Beit Collection intact, and to explore alternative means to fund Russborough House and Estate.
The NCFA believes this is another example of the lack of a cultural vision and policy within Government and a complete lack of political will to safeguard culture and the arts for all citizens of this state.
“The best way to protect Ireland’s cultural heritage is for this government to re-invest properly in our arts and culture” said NCFA Chairperson Jo Mangan. “Successive drastic funding cuts since 2008 have seen the arts sector decimated. Arts sector investment is half what it was in 2008, and one of the lowest in Europe. The heritage sector is cripplingly underfunded”.
The NCFA is reiterating its call for a restoration of a viable level of public funding for arts in Budget 2016. We need to keep our cultural heritage safe, and invest in our artistic future.
Press Release from National Campaign for the Arts (NCFA), 18 June, 2015.
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