Kirklees Council has come under pressure to sell a painting described as one of Britain's most important artworks.
Experts said the painting, Francis Bacon’s Figure Study II, could be worth up to £60 million on the open market. Rarely seen on show in Huddersfield, the artwork could solve some of the council's financial woes. But now the council has revealed that the painting can't be sold after all.
Here they answer a series of questions from the Examiner.
1: Can you provide details of the covenant relating to this piece of art?
There is no covenant but there are conditions attached to the gift. Francis Bacon’s Figure Study II was a gift from the Contemporary Art Society (CAS) to Batley Art Gallery in 1952. When Kirklees Council was created, the painting was transferred to Huddersfield Art Gallery. The conditions attached to the gift include: “Should the museum attempt to dispose of the artwork it will automatically forfeit title of the artwork, which will revert to the ownership of Contemporary Art Society.”
Therefore the council cannot sell the work. If we tried, it would be taken away from us and given to another institution. These conditions apply to other gifts from the CAS in our collections.
2: When was it last exhibited in Huddersfield Art Gallery, and for how long?
The artwork was put back on display following the redisplay of the permanent collection in the new ‘Perspectives’ gallery in 2013. It was only removed in May 2016 to lend it to Tate Liverpool for a Francis Bacon ‘Invisible Rooms’ exhibition, which then toured to the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart. Following this, it will travel to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh where it will be reunited with Figure Study I for a new exhibition opening in February 2017. As one of the most important works of art in Britain, it is much in demand for exhibitions around the world and enables us to promote Kirklees in a positive way.
3: How long has it spent in storage over the last two years?
0 years – it has either been on display at Huddersfield Art Gallery or loaned to another gallery for an exhibition.
4: How much time has it spent on tour, or as a guest exhibit in UK or foreign exhibitions?
Since 2013, the work has been on display for 30 months at Huddersfield Art Gallery and by the end of the Tate Gallery and Staatsgalerie exhibitions, it will have been on tour for 10 months.
5: Does the authority receive any revenue from these tours or exhibitions?
No. It is standard practice that galleries have a reciprocal arrangement: they lend each other works of art to increase audience access to collections. The borrowing institution pays for insurance, packing, transport and installation etc, so the lending institution incurs no costs. For example, as well as loaning to the Tate, in recent years we have borrowed significant artworks from their collections including Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII (one of the most famous sculptures in modern art, the notorious bricks). We recently had loans from the Hepworth, Wakefield to Huddersfield Art Gallery for the David Tindle exhibition – we have met those costs; when the Francis Bacon was on loan to Stuttgart they met the costs.
For the Francis Bacon, lending the work to others is also a stipulation of the Contemporary Art Society agreement Section 2.6: which also relates to the security question below:
‘The museum will agree to consider all requests to loan the Artwork to any interested party. The caveat to this agreement is that the museum will have the right to refuse the loan if the requesting organisation does not indicate satisfactory and appropriate conditions for the loan.’
6: How much is the piece worth? Who made the current valuation of £19.5 million, and when? Has it been re-valued since in line with other Bacon works sold at international auction?
We received a valuation from the Head of Contemporary Paintings at Bonham’s on 15th February 2016. He valued it at £20 million, which was less than we expected having seen the recent auctions of Bacon’s work. However, Bacon’s earlier work, of which Figure Study II is an example, is not as valuable as his later work.
7: What are the insurance costs associated with this piece of art? What is it insured against, i.e. fire, flood, vandalism, etc.?
The insurance premium is £10,000 per year. We only pay this when the work is not on tour. The insurance policy is an industry standard fine art policy.
8: Are there any attendant security costs when it is on display in Kirklees, or anywhere else?
There are no additional costs. We do not wish to discuss security publicly for obvious reasons. Kirklees Museums and Galleries is an Arts Council England Accredited Museums service, which means that its standards of collections management and security meet nationally agreed standards appropriate to its collections.
9: How much Arts Council England (ACE) funding does Kirklees receive each year? How is this spent?
Kirklees Museums and Galleries is not a regularly funded Arts Council organisation. The museums service applies for grant funding for specific projects. These have to be for additional priority work which will help ACE to achieve its goals and the museums service to focus on its priorities – ACE does not fund shortfalls in local authority funding.
Over the last three years, Kirklees Museums has received £257,000 from the Arts Council’s Museums Resilience Fund. This funded improvements to interpretation at the Grade I Listed Elizabethan Oakwell Hall; created a new Shop; upgraded facilities in the Barn, which is used for room hire and weddings; and installed new gates to the Visitor Centre which were created by an artist working with the local community.
The Museums service is also part way through a two-year Arts Council funded Sustainable Collections project, which is enabling us to explore new ways to ensure that the collections are sustainable, accessible and cared for in the future. It involves working with volunteers, partners and other institutions to pilot innovative long-term solutions to the challenges faced in a climate of reduced core funding.