Beit campaign update

Benfactors: Sir Alfred and Lady Beit at Russborough House in 1978 with Adoration of the Shepherds, by Adriaen van Ostade, one of paintings destined for Christie’s. Photograph: Dermot O’Shea (from the Irish Times, 13 June 2015)

Benfactors: Sir Alfred and Lady Beit at Russborough House in 1978 with Adoration of the Shepherds, by Adriaen van Ostade, one of paintings destined for Christie’s. Photograph: Dermot O’Shea (photo & link from the Irish Times, 13 June 2015)

Thanks to everyone who has circulated notice of the Beit paintings campaign, signed the Irish Arts Review petition, or otherwise made their voices heard on this issue! It was heartening over the weekend to see such great coverage in the Irish Times, and also on RTE Drivetime which featured our Professor Kathleen James-Chakraborty summarising the controversy, and explaining why it matters (listen back here)!

One of the extras accompanying Rosita Boland’s excellent piece in the Irish Times (‘Flight of the Beits’ – read it here) was a sound clip provided by my colleague Dr Philip Cottrell, working along with School alum Ciaran Woods, which was extracted from a 1985 BBC documentary where the Beits explain their intentions leaving the house and collections jointly in trust — and their clear wish that the collection remain intact. That recording (and its transcript) are linked to / provided below.

Please join us on Wednesday for a public event in Tailors’ Hall where members of our School, the Irish Georgian Society and An Taisce will be discussing the significance of these paintings and the campaign to save them.

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An extract of an interview (2:36) conducted with Sir Alfred Beit and Lady Beit in 1985 for a BBC documentary in which they discuss the importance of keeping Russborough and its collections intact (transcript follows below)

It was broadcast on 7 July 1985 – almost 30 years to the day before the bulk of this priceless group of old masters are due to be sold off at Christie’s London (some of which, including the Rubens, Study of a Bearded Man, are discussed at length in the documentary). The documentary was part of a series, The Great Collectors, presented by Harriet Crawley.

Presenter: From April to October, Russborough is open to the public. Clementine and Alfred Beit have no children, and they were faced with the problem: how to keep the house and the collection together?

Lady Beit: Although there are some wonderful institutions and societies in this country to do with the arts, there is nobody – no ‘body’ – which functions in the same way as the National Trust. And therefore we began to worry about the future and we felt that whatever we did about this, to whomever we left it, or what have you, that the day would come when they couldn’t possibly afford to live in it, and what happens? In this country everybody is very keen to buy land but virtually nobody wants to live, love and care for a very, very large house. And we became worried about this.

It’s not only a question of the house it was the fact that we had spent, on the whole I suppose you could say, about the last 30 years putting the collection into the house – the two made a very happy marriage and we didn’t want to disturb it, and we were nervous that something in the future might happen whereby the house would be sold, people would lap up the land, the house would go to rack and ruin, and the collection would be dispersed.

Presenter: For this reason, in 1978 a trust was set up, the Alfred Beit Foundation which today administers Russborough…

Lady Beit: …quite frankly, to buy anything up to the standard of the rest of this very, very great collection, we would need to sell a picture, and I don’t honestly think that there is a picture that we particularly want to sell.

Sir Alfred Beit: No, that’s true, we’ve done all that you see.

Lady Beit: We’ve done all that.

Sir Alfred Beit: It’s very nice when you’ve got something you want to sell which is going to fetch a decent amount of money, you can buy something of the equivalent with the proceeds, but …we’ve done the weeding out, and frankly there’s little or nothing that I would like to get rid of now however much I might like to buy something else.

Lady Beit: I think that’s a very important point: we really don’t want to sell anything. After all, the whole object of what we’ve done here at Russborough, opening to the public and that kind of thing and why we’ve done it is to try and keep the collection as it is in the house.

Sir Alfred Beit: Intact!

Lady Beit: Intact.

(end of extract)

Betrayal of Trust: the Sale of the Beit Paintings

Portrait of a bearded man, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

Portrait of a bearded man, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

There’s no question that the proposed sale of paintings from the Beit Collection at Russborough House next month at Christie’s may constitute the greatest loss of art to Ireland in this lifetime. Many in Ireland’s art history and museum community have decried the sale, the manner in which the paintings have already been exported out of the country, and the lack of proper public debate on the issue. My department (the School of Art History & Cultural Policy) last week published a letter to the Irish Times calling for the sale to be halted — and we are joined in our protest by the Irish Arts Review, Irish Museums Association, Irish Georgian Society, and An Taisce (links are all to separate appeals by each of these organisations).

Today we share details of a public press event addressing the forthcoming sale and urging immediate action:

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As part of ongoing efforts to stop the sale of paintings from the historic Beit collection, and to discuss alternative plans for funding Russborough, a press conference has been organised by the School of Art History & Cultural Policy (UCD), the Irish Georgian Society, and An Taisce.

It will take place in Tailors’ Hall, Back Lane, Dublin 8, on Wednesday, 17 June, at 3 pm. Among the speakers will be Ian Lumley (An Taisce), Dr John Loughman (UCD), Dr Michael Ryan (former Director, Chester Beatty Library), and a representative of the Irish Georgian Society.

As a result of a remarkable act of generosity, one of the greatest of all private collections of Old Master paintings, formed in England by a German entrepreneur whose fortune was made in South Africa, has come to rest in Ireland. In 1976 Sir Alfred Beit, Bart., set up the Foundation which bears his name to ensure that his collection remains in perpetuity in the magnificent setting of Russborough at the foot of the Wicklow Hills.

These are the words of Professor Christopher Brown (former Director of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), writing in 1984. Three years later Sir Alfred and Lady Clementine Beit decided to bequeath seventeen of the most important paintings from their collection to the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI), while the kernel of their collection (30-40 pictures) remained at Russborough. It was hoped that the NGI paintings could occasionally be exhibited, with the rest of the historic Beit collection, at Russborough.

Sadly, recent actions by the Alfred Beit Foundation (ABF) have betrayed both the legacy of the Beits’ extraordinary benevolence to their adopted country and the trust invested in the Foundation by the Irish people to care for this collection. On 9 July six magnificent paintings, including two works by Peter Paul Rubens, will be sold by the ABF at Christie’s, London. Two 19th-century British landscapes and a drawing by Francois Boucher have been consigned to other sales to be held in June and July by the same auction house. In addition, an architectural painting by Jacques de Lajoüe (1687-1761), which had hung together with its pair in the Saloon at Russborough until last year, was apparently sold to a private individual by the ABF for a reported sum of €500,000. These recent sales, or proposed sales, are the latest in the liquidation of what the ABF has called “non-core assets”. In 2006 and 2013 the ABF disposed of collections of Italian Renaissance sculpture and Chinese porcelain.

The sale of these paintings will be an immeasurable loss to the national cultural patrimony. While some of these artists are represented in the National Gallery of Ireland, most of the paintings going under the hammer are either better in quality or are of a different type to those in our national collections. The ABF’s decision will also take us further away from Sir Alfred Beit’s aim in establishing his foundation in 1976, and opening the doors of Russborough to the public two years later – to make the house and its contents a centre for the study and appreciation of the fine arts in Ireland.

It is not too late to halt the sale and to consider other models of funding for Russborough House.

For further details, please email arthistory.culturalpolicy@ucd.ie

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Weekly round-up: 10 January 2012

One day left for applications to be Curator of the Venice Architectural Biennale!

A few bits and pieces for the first round-up of the new year:

In case you missed it in December, the Arts Council has finally released details of a new policy on opera — hopefully this will go some way towards mitigating the disastrous handling of the sector to date by the Council and the Department.

Bob Collins was announced in late December as the new Chair of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Thinking of going freelance in the new year? The Guardian Culture Professionals blog had a few good tips…

Applications are open for the Irish Curator of the Venice Architectural Biennale 2012 (but only until tomorrow, January 12!)

As of January 1st, the Artist Resale Right in Ireland was extended to heirs of artists (and not just living ones). The Irish Times provided a brief summary of the benefits artists & their descendants are now entitled to, with more info available from the Irish Visual Artists Rights Organisation (IVARO, which incidentally came to life as a project by several of our MA students some years ago!)

The Science Gallery’s flagship exhibition for 2012 ‘Hack the City‘ is currently accepting proposals for: ‘Installations, Mass-participation experiments, Events, Performances, New products/services/start-ups, Workshops, Apps, Visualizations, maps and mashups’. Funding is available and proposals are due by 20 January.

Black Church Print Studio has an intriguing-sounding exhibition coming up, especially for an ex-pat Angelena like me:  ‘From Dublin to LA and Back’, an exchange between BCPS and the LA Printmaking Society will be on show at Monster Truck Gallery in Temple Bar from 12-28 January.

Laurence Mackin provided a very useful summary of arts funding and training schemes open for 2012 (covering both North and South). In a similar vein, Community Action Forum (NI) recently compiled a great list of small grants available to community groups seeking project funding.

An interesting editorial on challenges for arts policy was published in the IT on 29 December.

One of the best pieces of arts policy journalism I’ve read in a major daily for some time was David Edgar in last week’s Guardian, musing on ‘Why Should We Fund the Arts‘?

Can you tell the difference between a Stradivarius and a newer violin? A fun test and report on new research from NPR…

A little over 20 days until applications close for World Book Night 2012! I gave away loads of free copies of Beloved last year, it was great fun! Sign up to be a giver on their website…

The PhotoIreland Festival has announced its theme for this July’s festival, and it’s just up my street: ‘Migrations: Diaspora & Cultural Identity’.

Weekly round-up: 4 November 2011

Hope Painting (2008) by William McKeown (1962-2011)

Happy Friday! It’s nice to be back.

Yesterday’s symposium at the National Gallery of Ireland (‘Future Gazing’) was enjoyable & enlightening, with lots of folks in the room contributing & following on the live stream. If you missed it, you can read some of the Twitter feed of the event, or check out some of the ‘Ten Beautiful Things’ digital media projects mentioned by speaker Hugh Wallace (Head of Digital Media at National Museums Scotland).

The Arts Council has launched an intriguing microsite ‘Supporting the arts – Stories from our archive‘ that draws upon digitised versions of key policy documents/images to tell the story of the evolution of State cultural policy. Structured across decades, one of the first installments (the 1950s) has been written by my colleague Pat Cooke from UCD.

A blow to contemporary art in the North: Ormeau Baths Gallery in Belfast has closed due to financial difficulties, bringing to an end two decades of exhibitions & programming. The Gallery was beset by financial and administrative problems over the past few years, and despite earlier indications it had turned a corner, its board has decided operations are unsustainable. This is a real loss to the visual arts community in Belfast, and perhaps the biggest casualty in the vis arts in recent years.

The inaugural VUE National Contemporary Arts Fair is on now at the RHA (through 6 November), with works for sale from most of Ireland’s top contemporary galleries.

The National Dance Archive has been launched at University of Limerick, filling a serious void in our performing arts archival records — it looks to be a fab resource for students & scholars of dance!

The Dublin Contemporary reached its expiration date on 31 October, and Aidan Dunne in the Irish Times penned an extensive and insightful reflection on its genesis and outcomes: highly critical of curator Jota Castro’s own participation in an event he curated, and of the likely shortfall in anticipated visitor numbers, he nonetheless reaches a cautiously optimistic conclusion.

The Glucksman Gallery is hosting its annual Craft Fair from today until Sunday — a great opportunity to start the Christmas shopping early!

A new website for the National Arts & Health initiative has been launched, with lots of resources for practitioners, artists, and others interested in related policy, opportunities and case studies.

If you’ve an interest in the humanities and inter/transdisciplinary digital initiatives: Professor Michael Shanks of Stanford University has been visiting UCD’s Humanities Institute of Ireland to speak about his work in archaeology, pedagogy & new media and his role running the Stanford Humanities Lab and the groovy research studio and lab Metamedia. He’ll be presenting two public lectures entitled Collaborative innovation networks: how to be interdisciplinary (Nov 8th) and What it is to be human: archaeological perspectives on human creativity (Nov 9th) — download details here.

Congrats to Temple Bar Gallery & Studios on winning Best Arts Website at the 2011 Irish Web Awards! Other nominees included nch.ie, fringefest.com, irishtheatremagazine.ie, axis-ballymun.ie and ewaneumann.com (although that last one is a total mystery to me).

We may have lost out on our bid to be 2014 World Design Capital (curse you, Cape Town!) but there’s still time to catch some design action at Limerick Design Week!

Last year I took part in World Book Night UK/Ireland and had the chance to give away 30 free copies of a book I love (Beloved by Toni Morrison) — the new books have been announced for 2012, but word is that applications to be an Irish giver will be different this year (check here for updates).

I was terribly sad to hear of the untimely passing of Co Tyrone-born artist William McKeown. I visited Willie in his Edinburgh studio some years ago while writing an article on his 2008-9 IMMA exhibition for Irish Arts Review (read it here). He was a lovely, gentle and very talented painter; we talked about many things, including our mutual interest in Brueghel — I later sent him a copy of William Carlos Williams’ wonderful book of poetry Pictures from Brueghel, some of which perhaps captures a bit of what Willie’s work felt like for me, too:

The living quality of
the man’s mind
stands out

and its covert assertions
for art, art, art!
painting

that the Renaissance
tried to absorb
but

it remained a wheatfield
over which the
wind played

(from ‘Haymaking’, William Carlos Williams)

Weekly update: 10 October 2011

The new WorldIrish.com site, one of the diaspora initiatives launched last week

Feedback on the arts/culture dimension of the recent Global Irish Economic Forum at Dublin Castle has been buzzing since  Saturday, with a subsequent article in the IT on corporate sponsorship & the arts (also predated last week by an article on foreign bank subsidizing of recent arts activity). I admit to some scepticism regarding the notion of a mass ‘homecoming’ event (will there be cheerleaders & tailgates?), but it was heartening to see the cultural agenda as a central part of the discussions. (on a side note, it’s a pity that the live feed of the event hasn’t been archived!!)

More than 350 people have signed the petition launched by IVARO to urge full implementation of the Artists’ Resale Right (as it currently can be availed of by living artists, the petition seeks for the resale rights to extend to deceased artists whose work is still in copyright, thus bringing Ireland in line with EU conventions). Consider clicking through the link & adding your name in support??

To coincide with Dublin Contemporary, Noone Casey are offering a mentorship award worth €10k of sponsorship, financial & strategic planning advice to an emerging arts collective, organisation, etc. (the brief is pretty open!) Deadline is 12th of October.

The Arts Council has recently announced its list of new artform advisers — the folks tasked with viewing & visiting shows/exhibitions/etc. across the country, and assisting with funding applications and grantmaking decisions.

Calling all arts marketers: Una Carmody, director of the Arts Audiences project, is seeking feedback from marketers with respect to the Target Group Index Report (to be released this month)… quite a lot of relevant information and data about arts participation is contained in this report, and Una & co are taking requests for report analysis.

We’ve entered the final week of the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival… My own viewings have been mixed, from the great (Rian) to the meh (Peer Gynt), but bookings have been very solid and it’s been difficult to source tickets for many shows. The box office has been releasing 10 euro rush tickets the same day as some performances, so it’s worth keeping an eye on their twitter feed or facebook page to snag a deal! (a few interesting and provocative write-ups in the Guardian and Saturday Irish Times, as well)

The annual architectural bonanza known as Open House Dublin began last weekend; if the queues at sites in our neighborhood were representative at all, it’s been a busy launch! So many great programmes and events along with the architectural tours, it’s a must-see.

One helluva white elephant: following accusations of mismanagement the €44 million Niemeyer arts centre in Spain is set to close after opening only 6 months ago. One of our current PhD students in the department is likewise investigating the effects of ‘starchitecture’ in the Rioja region; it would seem the ‘Bilbao effect’ is not all it’s been cracked up to be…

The UK think-tank Demos have recently released a report into the creative industries sector entitled ‘Risky Business‘, suggesting that creative business have proven to be lower-risk than non-creative/cultural ventures, and calling for greater levels of government attention to fostering their growth.

Following its enormously successful application call for its BA in Acting in 2011, the new Lir (Nat Academy for the Performing Arts) has announced it’s accepting applications for its BA In Acting 2012 / Diploma in Stage Management and Technical Theatre 2012.

We knew it was coming, but, alas, IMMA will be closing its main building for refurbishment on 1 November until December 2012. What a buzzkill for all the enthusiasm generated by Dub Contemp 😦 😦

Booking has opened for the International Puppet Festival in the south county Dublin & Wicklow area… a series of free street events will also be taking place in Temple Bar, Bray and Dun Laoghaire on the 23rd of October– it looks like a great programme!

…and if you live in South Dublin, take a moment to complete a public survey on usage of its library systems.

It’s still a few weeks away (9 November), but consider booking in for the Irish Museum Association’s annual lecture — this year featuring Dr Penelope Curtis, Director of the Tate Britain — the tickets generally get snapped up!