SOUTHAMPTON’S planned big art sell-off has begun, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Paintings worth millions owned by the city council are to be sold off from the City Art Gallery’s overflowing £180m collection.
It is proposed to use the cash to help fund the proposed £15m Titanic Museum.
The city’s leisure boss has not ruled out selling masterpieces by Turner, Lowry, Picasso and Monet to rival galleries and private collectors.
The decision comes after a Daily Echo campaign for some publicly owned paintings to be sold to fund multi-million pound projects in the city.
Leaders from Southampton’s art community last night called for a referendum on the selling of the city’s “crown jewels”.
However, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) – the UK’s most important arts body – last night backed the move.
A review of the gallery’s collection will be carried out over the summer to identify paintings which could be sold.
Only 200 of the vast 3,500 collection can be shown in the gallery at any one time and some works have scarcely seen the light of day in years.
The ruling Conservatives will make a decision in October about what pieces will be put on the market.
Negotiations will then begin with British galleries about individual paintings but if prices cannot be agreed they will be sold to the highest bidder at public auction next spring.
Leisure boss Councillor John Hannides, said: “Once it has been determined what is available for disposal, then we would look to have those pieces valued.
“We will make it a priority to respect any conditions surrounding art that has either been gifted to the city or funded by other parties.”
The MLA, which tells the Government how millions in arts funding should be spent, is advising the council on what can be sold from the world famous collection.
But Anne Anderson, chairman of Friends of Southampton Museum and Art Galleries, said: “The people of Southampton should be asked what they want to happen to their art – it’s not up to those in the council chamber to decide.”