Previous Posts: December 2022

National Gallery Sainsbury Wing extension (ctd.)

December 1 2022

Video: The Shanghai Museum

Westminster Council has granted planning permission to the National Gallery for its rebuilding of the Sainsbury Wing, as part of a plan to make it the main entrance. The move comes despite a last minute plea from Denise Scott Brown, who designed the original Wing, to leave it alone. Let's be honest, the permission was a done deal - the National Gallery would not have already shut up the Sainsbury Wing and dispersed the pictures that used to hang in it if it hadn't been very confident of being able to get its way on planning.

Was a deal done? Perhaps. The Council makes a lot of money from licensing events in Trafalgar Square, events which make it difficult for the National Gallery to use its main entrance. 

Anyway, I noticed that the Shanghai Museum has been promoting a loan exhibition of some 52 masterpieces from the National Gallery. I wonder how much the National Gallery is being paid for the loans. While I'm not averse to the National Gallery lending works to institutions like the Shanghai Museum, the figure of 52 works being exhibited contrasts with the 12 being sent around the UK as part of the National's 200th anniversary celebrations. 

The Shanghai show opens January 17th to May 7th 2023. 

Update - I was told by The Highest Authority that there no deal was done, with regards to Westminster Council. 

I also asked the NG whether it could disclose how much they were being paid for the Shanghai loans:

[...] we can’t comment on confidential contractual matters. But the Gallery is committed to generating additional income to support its ambitious strategic plan (2021-2026) which is for the nation and for the world, and to be as self-funding as possible in these difficult times.

In other words, the Shanghai loan is no ordinary loan, but is a commercial venture. Does the National Gallery really need the money though? Every now and then I like to keep an eye on its reserves, that is, the reserve ammounts in keeps in various trusts and funds, but which it doesn't include in its main annual accounts. The American Friends of the National Gallery's latest publicly available accounts report that as of December 2020 it had net assets of $283m. The National Gallery Trust, which is UK based, had as of March 2021 total funds of £110m. 

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