Time for the Beit Trustees to Quit?

Beit 7tIn the Summer 2015 edition of the Irish Arts Review we launched a public Appeal to the Trustees of the Beit Foundation at Russborough requesting them to “call off, or at least to immediately postpone”, the sale of the Beit paintings which had been secretly consigned to Christies for sale in London. No less than 5,149 art lovers supported this Appeal and happily three of the pictures including the Rubens Head were bought from the Trust and consigned to the National Gallery over the past twelve months. Now however, three other paintings from the Russborough collection have been listed for sale at Christies on 7th July and this disposal will follow the sale of the oriental ceramics for €1.2m in 2013 and the sale of the Italian bronzes for €3.8m in 2006. The Trustees continue to sell off the family silver having failed to come up with an ongoing development plan for the magnificent estate bequeathed to their Trust by Alfred and Clementine Beit.

Once again, the affairs of the Foundation are being conducted behind closed doors as if the public had no legitimate interest in the estate to whose very survival they have contributed so extensively. In 2002, public funds of €2m were handed to the Trust through the Heritage Council. The Trust also draws support from Wicklow CC. Even the conveyance of the three paintings to the National Gallery was made possible through tax concessions to the donors ie loss of revenue to the public interest.

It is pretty obvious that the Beit Foundation is sorely in need of restructuring with the involvement of substantial partners (both the OPW and the NGI have been suggested) to share the burden of running the Russborough estate. If the Trustees cannot even see the grave necessity for such a development before they have nothing left to sell, our best hope is that they will have the common sense to step aside before it’s too late.

John Mulcahy
Editor, Irish Arts Review


There are 7 comments

  1. Adrienne Hume

    Fully agree. Something must be urgently done. Please put this information into the public domain again, since it was public outrage that helped prevent the last sales.

  2. Anonymous

    Please stop the sale of a collection which, in the lifetime of the Beits gave such joy to the people of Ireland and beyond. Is there no way of ensuring the preservation of behests, airfield land, Beit collection, etc. When Trust Boards charged with care of same make secret decisions to sell same. Are we lacking in discerning judgment regarding what is worthy of preservation? I believe pouring money into Moore St buildings is to waste scarce resources. Kathleen Fitzgerald

  3. Jane Aelst

    I thoroughly agree. The ABF board has failed in its remit and has betrayed the legacy of the Beits in whose name it claims to act. It has behaved like a private family trust, arrogantly justifying its position in the few statements that it has made, when the reality is that it has received charitable status from this state and received millions in public money. The ABF only cares about the bricks and mortar of Russborough; it has no interest in the contents of the house – these are just ‘non-essential assets’ (its words) to be disposed of at the earliest opportunity. People have also forgotten that the biggest scandal was not the auctioning of paintings at Christies, but the private sale, from the wall of Russborough, to a Ukrainian businessman of a painting by Jacques de lajoue, one of a pair of 18th-century paintings purchased by Sir Alfred. The ABF received a measly €500,000 for this transaction, way under market value.

  4. Dr Colette Pegum

    This action by the ABF is indeed shocking especially as it has recurred with little media coverage and hence little public knowledge is a further reason to question the motives of the ABF . The public should have a say in what is after their legacy

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