Harrogate’s £8 million art collection ‘hidden from public view’

100414 Gallery Volunteer Simon Sellars putting the finishing touches to  a new exhibition 'Art and Yorkshire from Turner to Hockney ' at the Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate which starts on Saturday. (GL100281e).
100414 Gallery Volunteer Simon Sellars putting the finishing touches to a new exhibition 'Art and Yorkshire from Turner to Hockney ' at the Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate which starts on Saturday. (GL100281e).
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Just one per cent of Harrogate’s £8million art collection is on display to the public, new research has revealed.

Harrogate Borough Council has 2,500 works of art worth £8million but just 26 items from the collection are currently on display.

The authority has the lowest proportion of its collection on display of all councils in Yorkshire, with just one per cent of its collection on display.

Henry Pankhurst from Harrogate’s Civic Society said that Harrogate was lucky to have such a vast collection of art.

He said: “It is great that Harrogate is lucky enough to have such a large collection of art but it is a real shame that more of it isn’t out on display.

“More effort could have been made by the council to display art work in Crescent Gardens, or even the HIC could be used to display artworks, but obviously security is a big issue with art work as valuable as this.”

Harrogate Borough Council’s Mercer Art Gallery has two gallery spaces and changes exhibitions every three to four months on average.

Harrogate Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Sport, Coun Stan Lumley said: “I think we should get as much out as possible but we have a responsible to look after what we have, art needs a controlled environment and our gallery space is limited.

“ We do our best and regularly change the exhibitions.”

Harrogate’s art collection mainly dates back to the 19th and 20th centuries and includes works by William Powell Frith, Atkinson Grimshaw, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Dame Laura Knight and Alan Davie among many others.

Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance which carried out the research said: “No-one is proposing a wholesale sell-off of art owned by government authorities, but nonetheless the scale of the collection is staggering.

“Local authorities should make an effort to display more of their art for people to enjoy, and they also need to take a good hard look at their art portfolio and think about what does and does not need to be retained.”

The highest value art collection in Yorkshire was held by Leeds City Council whose collection is valued at £150million

Local authorities in the United Kingdom owned at least 5.5 million works of art with an estimated value of £2.3 billion.