'A Walk Through... Salisbury Meadow'?

May 22 2013

Image of 'A Walk Through... Salisbury Meadow'?

Picture: National Gallery

I hear an announcement will be made tomorrow. And at a time when we need some good news here in the UK.

Can you guess where it's going?

Update: most of you got it from the headline above, which was meant to lead you to Tate's new 'Walk through British Art' - yes, it's Tate Britain! More here at BBC News. The published price tag was £23.1m, though I assume with tax liabilities that the picture was valued for much more.

A reader writes:

I guess from your heading that the Constable is destined for Tate Britain??! 

I won’t be happy if that is correct! At the National Gallery “Salisbury Cathedral from the Water Meadows” was always on display as part of a logical exhibition of British painting.  It will be a great pity if it is now to be subject to the Tate’s odd display policies.

Leave it where it was on display for years I say!

One reader made the link to Tate because, when he was there yesterday, the Constable room was closed.

Anyway, well done to Tate Britain for pulling this one off. What a coup, not least in wresting the picture away from the National Gallery. The picture is an illustration in how, when Tate was founded, the split between the National Gallery's British collection was never satisfactorily resolved.

Great thanks are also due to the Heritage Lottery Fund, who came up with £15m. What a relief it is to know that the icons of our artistic heritage are more likely to remain in the UK, now that the HLF is at last pulling its weight on acquisitions. 

Finally, a small plug that at every stage in the story, AHN had the news first!

Update II - a reader writes:

Wow!  Well done them.  Bet half of them are thinking they could have got a Basquiat for that kind of money...

Update III - a reader adds:

It seems the Manton Foundation chipped in with a whopping $10M donation.

Bravo them. The Manton Foundation was formed by the late Edwin Manton, a longstanding Tate benefactor.

Update IV - another reader writes:

So the news is out and it is Tate Britain as owner plus four other galleries across the width and breadth of the ( still, just ) United Kingdom. It looks like a dog’s dinner of an arrangement and one where you will need to have access to a fortune teller to find out where this pushed, pulled and shoved masterpiece will be on display. Of course, great for PC Access but not for actually getting to see the painting…

For better or worse, these group purchases are a thing of the future. I think I can see it working out, though it'll largely come down to how long a painting stays at each location - too long, and people will wonder where it's disappeared to, too short, and it'll turn into a gimmick.

Another reader isn't bothered about the shared purchase, and points out that it was probably a good way to secure the HLF's £15m:

As well as being a long time Tate supporter Sir Edwin Manton was a great collector / enthusiast for Constable, hence the big donation from the Manton foundation.

It should also be noted that the work is in fact to be shared (at least in terms of display) by several other galleries (National Museum of Wales, Scottish National galleries, Colchester, and Salisbury). The idea is, as far as I understand things, that the work will be more or less permanently on display at one of these galleries on a rotating basis. I don't yet know the exact details of this arrangement but it is likely to mean that the painting will be absent from London for extended periods. 

Obviously when this happens it will be missed, but given the very large number of Constable's that can always be seen in London it is arguably no bad thing. A work of this quality will give a huge boost to small gallereis like Colchester and Salisbury and there are very few Constables on public display in either Wales or Scotland.

I suspect that the sharing of the work around the UK was key to securing such a large contribution from the HLF. Great that funding ccan still be found (sometimes)  to keep expensive masterpieces in the UK. I gather that the work had a market value of about £40 million.

The same reader kindly sends us details of where the picture's going:

The work is to be on display at TB until the end of this year, then it goes off on a five year tour of the partner venues;

  • Cardiff 2014
  • Ipswich 2015
  • Salisbury 2016
  • NGS 2017
  • Back on display at TB 2018

After this initial 5 year period the parnter galleries will continue to have "special access" to the work for their future displays and exhibitions and the work will also be made available for loan to other galleries in the UK and abroad.

I guess what this means in practice is that most of the time it will be on display at TB from 2018, except when it is on loan to either the partner institutions for a specific exhibion, or to other gallery, perhaps as part of a touring exhibition.

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