Come on, show us the Monet!

HIGHLY-PRIZED: The storage area at the city art gallery

HIGHLY-PRIZED: The storage area at the city art gallery

First published in Search by

COLLECTIVELY they're worth £130m - and you own them. But Southampton City Council is refusing to say where some of them are!

The Daily Echo can reveal the city council has loaned out almost 300 expensive pieces of art from its giant collection.

But although they admit the public has the right to know where they are and visit them, they are refusing to tell.

And the reason they give is they fear not all the precious works are safe!

The council told the Daily Echo it would need to apply for information on who has been leant your art work through the Freedom of Information Act. The application will take weeks and council bosses say the time will be spent tracking down the art and ensuring it is being stored safely.

In total 284 pieces from the art collection are currently in hotels, schools and museums across the city and beyond.

City arts bosses cite fears about security of the works at the locations - and the amount of time it would take for them to compile a list of where the treasures are located.

The attitude has prompted an angry response from opposition councillors and residents' groups who say that the public has a right to know where the works are - and how to view them.

Concerns They have also raised concerns over security measures that have been put in place to ensure the works are safe from thieves.

Chairman of Bitterne Park Residents' Association Liz Woodford told the Daily Echo that she is still trying to track down a bronze relief map of the city donated by Ordnance Survey to the council.

She said: "We have a right to know where these things are. I can't see how anybody can query that. I am appalled we can't have an open answer. It is our money they are dealing with."

Conservative group deputy leader Councillor Royston Smith said: "The council should have a record of where these things are.

"If the council is saying there is a security issue, then there is a security issue about where they have been loaned out to and that should not be the case where works of art are concerned.

"We should never need to hide behind Freedom of Information.

"It is the people's art and if they are worried about security, they should never have loaned them out to people who were insecure in the first place."

Labour group deputy leader Councillor Jacqui Rayment added: "I think that it is right that our artwork should be out on display to other organisations.

"However, the secrecy of whereabouts it is, I find surprising because all the art belongs to the people.

"Southampton City Council are only the guardians of the pictures and I would want the widest possible audience to view them."

A spokeswoman from Southampton City Council said that the information would not be released citing security concerns. The most valuable work in the city's collection is English landscape artist JMW Turner's Fisherman Upon a Lee Shore in Squally Weather, which is currently on display at the city art gallery.

Running it a close second is Thomas Gainsborough's portrait George Venables Vernon, Second Lord Vernon currently on loan to Gainsborough House museum in Sudbury, Suffolk, for a special exhibition and we are not forgetting the Monet which is out there somewhere but we don't know where!

Daily Echo editor Ian Murray said: "This is a farce, but there is a serious issue here, these are valuable items.

"The City Council cannot go around loaning out expensive art that belongs to the people without making sure it is is safe.

"We will be applying for that list of locations under the FoI Act."

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