The membership of Burrell Renaissance – the group charged with driving forward ambitious plans for the Burrell Collection – has been confirmed by the Glasgow Life Board.
Burrell Renaissance will advise on the strategic direction of the refurbishment project and provide advice on key aspects of the redisplay and a programme of international touring while the building is closed for refurbishment. Burrell Renaissance will also develop and support fundraising for the project.
Sir Angus Grossart, Glasgow Life board member and a former chairman of both the National Galleries, and the National Museums of Scotland, has been appointed Chair of Burrell Renaissance. He said: “I am delighted that we have brought together in the Burrell Renaissance a group who represent all those who share an ambition to liberate the strength and quality of this great collection. It includes the City of Glasgow, Glasgow Life and the Trustees of Sir William Burrell’s great gift.”
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.
Burrell Renaissance’s membership includes Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who has also been appointed as a Special Advisor to Glasgow Life’s Board. Lord Kerr is a former Ambassador to the United States and head of the Foreign Office.
Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum, will be a Special Advisor to Burrell Renaissance, providing guidance and support with both the redisplay of the Burrell Collection and international touring.
Sir Angus called on both civic and commercial interests to back the project, adding: “I hope many will help us to raise the banner for this ambitious project. It is significant that two very eminent Glaswegians, Lord Kerr, who was head of the Foreign Office, and Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, will give us their advice and support. This is a great international story, an international passport for Glasgow, and reflects the confident and outward looking aspirations of Sir William, which remain relevant to our own time.”
Lord Kerr, said: “I believe the Burrell Collection is Scotland's special secret, and it's high time for it to be more widely shared. When I was Ambassador in Washington I was shocked to find that so few in the States had heard of it, though the Collection is comparable to the famous Frick in New York, and should attract comparable crowds.
“The combination of the Burrell and Pollok House, with the masterpieces collected by two great Glasgow shipping families, the Burrells and the Stirling-Maxwells, in the majestic Pollok Park, is unique, with the Burrell's French and Dutch paintings complementing the superb Spanish art at Pollok. The medieval tapestries seem to me to rival the treasures of the Cluny Museum in Paris. The more we learn about the Collection, the more we realise the genius of Sir William in collecting such masterpieces.
“I'm proud to be associated with the imaginative Renaissance plan, an initiative of which Glasgow can be justly proud.”
Neil MacGregor, said: “The Burrell Collection tells an inspiring story of a Glasgow that has for centuries been open to the whole world, collecting and studying different cultures, presenting them to the widest possible public. This is a story that deserves to be much better known.
“The present building was immediately recognised as a brilliant response to both the quality of the collection and its uniquely beautiful setting. That building now needs renovation, but that gives a rare opportunity for parts of the collection to travel. Wherever they are shown, the masterpieces of the Burrell Collection will be eloquent ambassadors for Glasgow”
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.
In order to change the terms of the original bequest Glasgow City Council has approved 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.
Councillor Archie Graham, the Chair of Glasgow Life and a member of Burrell Renaissance, added: “The Collection’s home in Pollok Park is in serious need of attention and the Council will consider options for its refurbishment in due course.
“In the meantime, I’m delighted we have a group of people who are passionate about Sir William’s legacy and creating a fitting home for it as we move forward with these ambitious plans.
“I have no doubt that going forward, Sir William’s life work will be an international flagship for Glasgow – and continue to build on our reputation as a world-class cultural destination.”