Monday, 5 January 2009

Philistines of the world unite ...

Whilst many families will start the New Year worrying about the credit crunch, not so the Duke Of Sutherland. It looks like the £50 million that he wanted for part of his art collection has been raised, helped by the Scottish government’s pledge of £17m of public money.

Having your fortune tied up in old masters apparently is a real pain in the arse. The duke’s collection has been on loan to the National Gallery since 1945 but like many collectors he faces a problem if he wants to sell to a private buyer - the government tends to step in and place restrictions on such art going out of the country. What a bummer if you need to liquidise your assets. But the good news for his Grace today is not only that he can sell it ‘to the nation’ but also, and unbelievably, he will not have to pay tax on the deal either.

This seems to be a rare issue that unites both toff-twat conservative critic Brian Sewell and darling of the wadical new wave Tracy Emin, who both feel that it is a matter of national importance to preserve this bit of our cultural heritage.

But a minority voice in the art world points out that the National Gallery already owns many Titians – so many that they can’t even all be on public display – and that from an art scholarship point of view the pieces in question don’t add anything to our understanding of the artist.

From a more mundane point of view Ian Duncan MP points out that Titian can hardly be considered as part of ‘our’ heritage as he says ‘it’s not as if it was Jock McTitian’.

It all sounds like a case of the aristocracy and the chattering classes colluding to make a buck and indulge their own tastes at the expense of the rest of us.

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