The shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher has released a statement claiming 22,000 publicly owned works of art spanning six centuries by some of Britain’s and the world’s greatest artists are not, as they should be, visible to the public.
8,500 of these works (paintings, sculptures and prints) are owned by parliament, the other 13,500 are owned by the UK government. There is no official estimate on the works, but the artists hidden from view include William Hogarth, Lucian Freud, John Constable and Andy Warhol; so one can safely assume the collection is worth a fair bit.
Dugher is calling for something rather exciting in reaction to this revelation: a public gallery in parliament, allowing everyone who should be able to view these masterpieces, to be able to view them; and not just reserving them for the “privileged few” as Dugher says is currently the case.
Dugher said: “There are over 20,000 publicly-owned works of art that are not accessible to the majority of the public – that is not good enough.”
Although the buildings the works are housed in are publically owned, they are often locked behind closed doors in rooms many normal members of the public will never be privileged enough to visit. Members of the public are only allowed to see a very small portion of the works that are hanging in the Houses of Parliament by taking a tour they have to pay for.
Dugher however, says the government’s public collection is even harder to find than parliament’s. Works owned by the government, including Andy Warhol screen prints of the Queen (pictured), are scattered across almost every country in the world. Displayed in embassies and ambassadorial residencies globally.
Dugher says: “A small part of the Palace of Westminster should be put aside to become a free public art gallery. All these great works of art are publicly owned so it is only right that everyone, not just a privileged few, should have the opportunity to see and learn from them.”
Watch this space.