WORKS from Southampton City Art Gallery's overflowing £150m collection are to be sold off to rival galleries and private collectors.
The Daily Echo can also reveal that limited edition prints of some of the gallery's masterpieces will be sold for several hundred pounds in a move to make the vast collection a commercial success.
Cash raised will fill city council coffers to reinvest into the gallery, fund new culture projects across Southampton and cover the annual cost of insuring the collection - estimated at £50,000 annually.
The announcement comes more than a year after the Echo revealed that insurance premiums had not been paid since 1994, leaving the council exposed to risks from fire, theft or vandalism.
The Daily Echo also questioned the purchase of a new piece of modern art for £250,000 - entitled Red Movement but dubbed "The Duvet" by critics - when only 200 of the vast 3,500 collection can be shown in the gallery at any one time.
This newspaper suggested selling off some art and using the money for new projects - such as a heritage centre similar to the one being now proposed for the old magistrates' courts.
City leisure bosses now insist that masterpieces - by artists such as Turner, Lowry, Picasso, Monet or Rodin - will stay in Southampton.
They have also promised that any art donated, bequeathed, bought with charitable trust grants or loaned to the city would not go under the hammer.
However, they say there is a small number of works collecting dust in vaults under the civic centre which could be sold.
Under Museums, Libraries and Archives Council guidelines, cash raised from the sale of art must be invested back into the gallery and any funding bodies who have helped buy art for the city would have to be repaid.
However, profits from the sale of prints and leasing works could fund culture projects in the wider community.