Going, going … GONE! When is it acceptable to sell public art?

The Long Victorian - c.1789 - 1914

Going, going … GONE! When is it acceptable to sell public art? It’s happening more frequently than you might think. There was a time when I had assumed that once a work of art had been gifted or bought by a public art gallery, there it would stay (apart from loans and special exhibitions). Later I learned that galleries do sell art works in order to acquire others, thereby developing their collections. That sounds reasonable and responsible. But in the last few years I have noticed a disturbing trend, both in the UK and in the United States, to sell public art for other purposes – to help pay for running costs, for building extensions, to reduce debts and to develop endowments.

Painting The Somnambulist by Millais was sold

This might seem a dry subject, but it’s not so dry when specific paintings that you had hoped to see, turn out to have been flogged off to…

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