Just one per cent of Harrogate council’s art collection on display to public

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Just over 1% of the 2,658 artworks owned by Harrogate Borough Council are currently on display to the public, figures reveal.

A freedom of information request to the authority by the Local Democracy Reporting Service found that 37 artworks are on display at its galleries or museums.

The council refused to publish the total value of the collection saying that doing so could attract thieves.

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However in 2019 it valued its 2,642 artworks at a combined £6.7m.

New figures have revealed that just one per cent of Harrogate council’s art collection is on display to the publicNew figures have revealed that just one per cent of Harrogate council’s art collection is on display to the public
New figures have revealed that just one per cent of Harrogate council’s art collection is on display to the public

Harrogate Borough Council owns the Mercer Art Gallery on Swan Road in Harrogate.

It also owns the Royal Pump Room Museum in the town as well as Knaresborough Castle and Museum.

A Harrogate Borough Council spokesperson said there there is “finite capacity” to exhibit more of its pieces but added it regularly rotates artworks across its locations and also lends pieces to exhibitions across the country.

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The council said a further 70 artworks will be put on public display later this month.

The collection will become owned by the new unitary authority North Yorkshire Council on April 1.

A Harrogate Borough Council spokesperson said: “Harrogate Borough Council’s collection of artworks includes thousands of different items including reproductions, uneditioned prints and a number of pieces of fine art.

"We are very fortunate to have inherited items from people or organisations who have kindly donated to us, so that residents and visitors have the opportunity to see a vast array of art from different periods and movements.

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“Due to the nature of our museum venues in Harrogate, and understandably, there is finite capacity to exhibit these valuable pieces and we also want to ensure that when someone visits an exhibition they are encapsulated by the theme or narrative.

“What we put on display therefore varies from year to year and will depend on what exhibition is on show at that time.

"This is common practice by all museums and galleries across the world – helping to ensure displays stay fresh and dynamic and encourage repeat visits as well as new visitors.”

The council spokesperson added: “Last year we held an exhibition from some of the biggest names in Modern British Abstract art, including John Hoyland, Patrick Heron, Gillian Ayres and Albert Irvin.

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"And in the coming weeks we launch our new exhibition, ‘Now You See Me’. It showcases 100 portraits from the Harrogate Art Collection, ranging from one of the earliest works in the collection – a portrait of Sir Francis Slingsby from the 1590s – to our most recent acquisition, a photowork by Irish artist Dorothy Cross, purchased by the Contemporary Art Society and the Friends of the Mercer Gallery.

“We look forward to welcoming new and returning visitors to enjoy this exciting exhibition, which opens on January 21.”

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