UK Government Loses Art

Roya Nikkhah has an article in the Telegraph which details five works of art which have gone missing from the UK Government art collection in the past year:

Details of the missing artworks came from a response to a parliamentary question from Andrew Rosindell, the shadow home affairs minister.

Originally the Government said it had lost eight works between 1 November 2007 and 31 October 2008.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that three of the missing works, by the British artists Julian Trevelyan and John Brunsdon, had since been recovered, but that the whereabouts of five were still unknown.

Jeremy Hunt, the shadow culture secretary, said: “It looks like the Government’s inability to keep things safe is catching. We’ve had missing computer discs and missing laptops – now we’ve got missing art.

“It is staggering that eight works can go missing and that five are still lost. Given that the DCMS spends nearly £1 million a year on this collection the least they could do was keep it safe.”

This would seem to be a fairly common occurrence. Is the loss of 5 works out of a total of 13,500 a ‘good’ year? Any missing art is unfortunate, but I wonder how common these losses are, especially given a government collection partially displayed in embassies all over the world. I suppose the Government should at least get some credit for owning up to the losses. Here is a list of the missing works:

  • Horse Guards from the Old Entrance, Scotland Yard, 1768, print by Michael Angelo Rooker, In British Embassy, Washington DC, reported missing November 2007
  • Monument to Balance print by Ernest Alfred Dunn, In British Consulate-General, Sao Paulo, reported missing July 2008
  • The Wording of Police Charges, 1970, print by R. B. Kitaj and Plague, 1970, print by R. B. Kitaj, In British Embassy, Baku, reported missing July 2008
  • Yellow Square plus Quarter Blue, 1972, print by William Scott, In Foreign & Commonwealth Office, London, reported missing September 2008
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

1 thought on “UK Government Loses Art”

  1. Those interested in questions regarding the loss of national art works would be well-rewarded by the reading of a French book by Emmanuel Pierrat and Jean-Marie de Silguy,with an English title, Museum Collection: Enquête sur le pillage de nos musées(Editions First ,2008). The authors show that the loss of national art works is very frequent and that rules regarding the loans of such works, their conditions of transport, the duty to report loss or damage, and above all the obligation to take action against those who cause loss or damage figure, are not pursued with any rigour. Often nobody is sure where these objects are since the officials, e.g., ambassadors; take these objects away without following the laid-down procedures. The figure of 5 reported for the losses in Britain is quite amazing and should be examined carefully.
    The titles of chapters in the book by Pierrat and de Silguy already give the reader some ideas: “Le bilan triste des inventaires”, Une manne inépuisable”, “La loi:une protection théorique” “La règle de la négligence”.

    Dr. Kwame Opoku

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