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The Fate of the Deux Danseuses

By Caroline Camp

This year, Britain is grappling with severe funding cuts in the arts . These cuts have affected many organizations across the board. Arts Council England had its budget for 2010/11 reduced by a total of £23 million, from £468 million to £445 million. However, it is still a mystery how exactly all of these cuts will play out.

One major issue is whether the public money will be replaced with private money. As reported by the Financial Times, the Culture Secretary has just announced the launch a new program to attract funding for the arts by corporations and private donors.

If funding needs are not met, the real issue becomes whether or not Britain will be able to hold on to its glorious art collections.

One such work of art at risk is a painting by Edward Degas, Deux Danseuses en jaune. Christie’s is planning to auction off the work on February 9, 2011. If the auction goes according to plan, the painting will go for £3-5 million, and will “probably go abroad.” However, the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University is trying to acquire the work before this can happen. The Museum can acquire the work if it can arrange for a private treaty sale to a UK public collection, which would have significant tax advantages. But this would still require the Museum to raise a few million pounds.

Enter the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The Fund was set up to help maintain a national collection, but its government funding is being halved from £10m to £5m a year. Although the Fund has already agreed to make a grant for the Deux Danseuses, it is unclear whether the amount will be enough to enable the work to be withdrawn from auction and sold via private treaty sale.

Earlier this month, a notable artwork by Breughel had been saved from auction when the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the National Trust, the Art Fund and members of the public raised the £2.7 million needed to keep it in the Nostell Priory [The BBC]. The reality is that the public institutions involved have very little money left to give.

As the Fund’s Chief Executive said last year when the cuts were announced, “Such a significant reduction – 50% – means we face the very real prospect of seeing parts of our national heritage lost forever.” [The guardian]

Read the article at The Art Newspaper
[Photo Credit: The Art Newspaper]