I must plead guilty, as a recent donor, to swelling the number of unseen works in the Mercer Art Gallery’ s permanent collection.
However, the proposal by the chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance that the problem could be solved by selling off selected works will be fiercely resisted as a breach of trust by the many public (such as the Art Fund, Contemporary Art Society and Friends of the Mercer) and private donors (myself included).
The Mercer, despite its modest resources, under the inspired leadership of Jane Sellars punches well above its weight for one of the smaller local authority art galleries in Yorkshire.
The programme of changing exhibitions, such as those on Frith and Grimshaw, enables the gallery to display works from the permanent collections in a broader context while “In Graphic Detail’ earlier this year was based in its entirety on works, many previously unseen, from the gallery’s own holdings.
None the less, with only two exhibition spaces, there is nowhere to display even part of the permanent collections on more than a rotating basis. The solution is straightforward: there is space to build an extension on the neglected lawn to the north.
(There is also derelict land behind the adjacent house to the south which would provide additional office, education and storage space).
The Harrogate Town Centre Strategy and Management Plan is silent on this issue but it is part of the Royal Hall Restoration Trust’s proposals for Crescent Gardens (http://www.royalhallrestorationtrust.org.uk/a-vision-for-crescent-gardens).
Coun Stan Lumsden and his officers should sharpen their pencils and prepare a Heritage Lottery Fund bid.