Only a fifth of Sunderland’s £9million of art is on show to public

Communications officer for Sunderland museums, Vicki Page with one of the Lowry paintings on show at The Museum and Winter Gardens as part of an exhibition to celebrate the 125th anniversary of his birth.
Communications officer for Sunderland museums, Vicki Page with one of the Lowry paintings on show at The Museum and Winter Gardens as part of an exhibition to celebrate the 125th anniversary of his birth.
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Less than a fifth of the £9million worth of art owned by Sunderland City Council is on display to the public, new research shows.

Research by the TaxPayers’ Alliances has discovered that the authority possesses £9million-worth of historical items such as paintings, sculptures and furniture.

At a time when we’re making necessary savings, it is only reasonable to ask whether some of the recent purchases represent value for taxpayers’ money.

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance

However, of the 2,945 items in total, just 564, or 19%, are on display to the public, in venues such as the city’s Museum and Winter Gardens and Monkwearmouth Station Museum.

As well as council-owned items, visitors have flocked to see work depicting Sunderland by artists such as LS Lowry and Grayson Perry, at the city’s Museum and Winter Gardens.

The TaxPayers’ Alliances is calling on the council to “make an effort” to put the items on show, or look at selling some of the pieces to help with the running of services.

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “No-one is proposing a wholesale sell-off of art owned by the Government, but nonetheless the scale of the collection is staggering. At a time when we’re making necessary savings, it is only reasonable to ask whether some of the recent purchases represent value for taxpayers’ money.”

Councillor John Kelly, the city council’s portfolio holder for culture, said: “The Museum & Winter Gardens programme has a wide variety of high-quality exhibitions to accommodate the needs of all our visitors, whatever their interests, making best use of the space that we have to display our collections.

“The report shows that we continue to have around 20% of our artwork on display at any one time.”