Councillor urges re-evaluation of Harrogate's £8m art collection

Harrogate's Mercer Gallery.
Harrogate's Mercer Gallery.

A councillor has urged Harrogate Borough Council to consider re-evaluating its extensive collection of artwork, to ensure its current value is accurately reflected for insurance purposes.

The comments were made by Coun Victoria Oldham at a meeting of the authority's audit and governance committee this month, when members were discussing the council's draft statement of accounts.

The statement showed that the council's museums and art exhibits - with an insured value of £8,620,000 as of March 2019 - are based on the market values assessed by external expert valuers in 2006 and 2007.

While the insurance valuations have been updated in 2018/2019, Coun Oldham said the potential changes in the art market since 2006 warranted a re-evaluation of the collection.

“With the charging art market, I'm surprised no re-valuation programs have been undertaken since 2006/2007," Coun Oldham said.

“The art market does change, so for them to be out for 12 years, someone might get a shock (at their change in value)."

If not re-evaluated, Coun Oldham said the collection may not be appropriately insured for what they're worth.

A council officer responded that the prospect would be raised before the draft statement returned to council.

According to the report, Harrogate council's fine arts collection consists of 2,500 works and accounts for the majority of the museums and arts

collection’s valuation.

The collection includes a significant amount of foreign antiquities, with the Egyptology collection forming the majority of it, together with a collection of Greek, Roman and South American pieces.

There is also a collection of decorative and applied arts, consisting of ceramics, glass, silver and jewellery, and a collection of British archaeological material.

All collections are stored at the Mercer Gallery in purpose-built secure storage and are displayed principally at three sites: the Mercer Gallery, the Royal Pump Room Museum and Knaresborough Castle.

Items are also loaned out to other museums and galleries in the UK and occasionally overseas.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter