In 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.
Editor, Irish Arts Review