Sell the Michelangelo, say some Academicians

September 20 2020

Image of Sell the Michelangelo, say some Academicians

Picture: RA

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Guardian have published an article regarding a group of Royal Academicians who want to force a debate on the sale of the Royal Academy's Taddei Tondo by Michelangelo (pictured).

The tondo is of course the only example of Micheangelo's sculptures in Britain. This lovely fact, the article makes clear, has been inverted by some to suggest that the work is an 'anomaly' and thus is worth cashing in. This proposal has been supported by a group of academicians as a necessary measure to protect 150 jobs at risk and plug an £8m gap left by the covid crisis.

The article quotes a 'well-known' by unnamed academician:

The sale of the tondo has already been discussed... It is worth so much, it could save jobs and get the RA out of the financial mess they have got themselves into.

A spokesperson for the RA has strongly rebutted the claims that the organisation is considering to sell the tondo.


I was wondering when this day would come, but it finally has.

On one hand, it is unsurprising that some contemporary artists and academicians no longer find masterpieces like the Taddei Tondo worth keeping. So much contemporary art focuses on laying scorn on, subverting and demonising the art of the past. Afterall, the RA is at its heart an educational institution for the training of artists. It's historic collection, therefore, is probably viewed by some contemporarists as a needless albatross rather than objects and masterpieces worthy of study and inspiration.

This is a debate that is unlikely to go away any time soon. But must we sacrifice everything for the living? If the UK government is wilfully removing the ability of organisations such as the RA to fend for itself financially, then it seems only reasonable that it foots the bill in the short term. These bail-outs, or selling of the family silver for that matter, can't go on forever either. Thus, removing the threat of covid is an imperative.

Update - It's not the first time that the sale of this important treasure has been discussed. The Art Newspaper had published an article three years ago giving an account of the debates which surrounding the sale of the sculpture in the late 1970s. It was then valued at £6,000,000. A loan to the MET in New York was suggested to try and raise funds, but never happened partly due to conservation concerns.

The article quotes advice and a warning that was given to the Queen at the time:

We could sell possessions, but this is a slipery slope. The only one which might solve the problem [the tondo] is looked upon by many as a national treasure.

The RA at the time took 'internal measures' to save funds and the idea to sell the tondo was dropped.

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