Global Aspirations for the Burrell Collection and Museum
The Burrell Collection is an outstanding international vision. Sir William Burrell collected around 8,000 items reflecting his lifelong passion for art and history and donated the Collection to his home city of Glasgow. The Collection, which includes medieval, Chinese, French and Islamic art of global significance, has been housed in the museum in the city’s Pollok Park.
The museum opened in 1983 and the general consensus is that the building now needs refurbished. Proposals will be put forward to the Council for refurbishment of the Burrell, with objects from the Collection stored. This provides an opportunity to lend works from this internationally significant Collection not only within the UK but also to overseas institutions during this period.
Such a tour would be used to reaffirm the Collection’s status as one of the most important in the world and also help with public fundraising efforts toward the cost of a refurbishment.
The Trustees of the Burrell Collection, Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council have been involved in detailed discussions about a potential refurbishment and how to amend the restrictions with regard to an international tour.
Under the terms of the bequest, Sir William, stipulated that he would not allow any works to be loaned overseas. As a shipping magnate, he was all too aware at that time of how the works he had collected might be damaged in transit.
The Burrell Trustees, chaired by Sir Peter Hutchison, alongside Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council, are examining proposals which would relax restrictions and allow an international tour taking account of the concerns which Sir William Burrell had and how circumstances have changed in the last 60 or so years.
Councillor Archie Graham, the Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “The Collection’s home in Pollok Park is in serious need of attention and the Council will consider options for its refurbishment.
“Sir William Burrell left his mark on the world, both as a businessman and as an art collector, historian and philanthropist. His gift to the people of Glasgow cannot be underestimated and we are now working to find a way to make this international touring exhibition happen.
“Glasgow has been defined by international aspirations and cultural reach. Sir William entrusted his life’s work to the city he called home. I am determined that any work we progress will be mindful of his wishes and help to secure much wider recognition for his vision and achievements as we look toward protecting the Collection’s home for decades to come.”
The building in which the Burrell Collection is housed, while architecturally distinguished, is now presenting significant problems and barriers to access in some areas. In 2012, some short-term repairs were made to the building’s roof.
The building is the subject of an ongoing architectural survey and masterplanning report. The survey is being funded by the Burrell Trustees, Friends of Glasgow Museums and Glasgow Life. The results of the survey and masterplan will be considered by Glasgow City Council.
Sir Angus Grossart, Glasgow Life Board Member and the Chairman of the newly-formed Burrell Renaissance Council, which will oversee any refurbishment programme and international tour, said: “The Burrell Collection is of world-class quality, and reflects the outward looking international confidence of a very great collector. It tells us much about the ambitious context in which Sir William Burrell, and Glasgow flourished. It also has much current relevance to understanding the scope of Scottish aspirations. His high standards and astuteness were matched by his competitive reach and his energetic persistence.
“It is an international flagship for Glasgow. Time has moved on since the initial priority of creating a home for the Collection. The Burrell now needs a real renaissance which will place the true significance of the collections within the major international league where it should be set. The challenge is highly ambitious, but what a privilege it is for our generation to be asked to rise to that call and to take forward this great inheritance.”
Sir Angus, a former chairman of both the National Galleries, and the National Museums of Scotland, added: “I believe that these proposals would have attracted the endorsement of one of Glasgow and Scotland’s greatest philanthropists, in placing his collections within the context of our times.”
Sir Peter Hutchison, said: “The Trustees welcome the forthcoming refurbishment, which will transform the Burrell building and provide a fitting context for this world class collection. New gallery space will be created, a wider range of objects displayed, facilities upgraded, and any structural defects, such as the roof, remedied. The Trustees also support the application to the Scottish Parliament to enable a major tour during the period of closure which would not only assist with fundraising, but would also raise the Burrell’s profile and demonstrate the extraordinary range and quality of Sir William’s unique legacy”.
In order to change the terms of the original bequest Glasgow City Council will consider the promotion of a Private Bill in the Scottish Parliament, as the legal solution to lift the current restrictions on overseas lending.
Given the scope of an exhibition based on this Collection, it is anticipated that only major museums and institutions would be able to mount such a show. Options being explored include major venues in the UK, Europe, North America and Asia.