A bill which would allow items from the internationally significant Burrell Collection to go on tour for the first time has been approved by the Scottish Parliament. Glasgow City Council introduced the Private Bill to secure a legal solution to lift restrictions on overseas lending which were included in Sir William Burrell’s original bequest.
The bill passed its final parliamentary hurdle today and is expected to receive Royal Assent in the coming weeks. Once enacted, Glasgow will be able to loan precious objects from the collection overseas, ahead of a planned museum refurbishment and redisplay, currently scheduled to begin in 2016.
The bill also allows for inward loans to be shown alongside some of the Burrell’s treasures, allowing great works, which may have been previously part of a set, to be seen together for the first time.
The Burrell Collection is an outstanding international vision. For more than 70 years, Sir William Burrell collected almost 9,000 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.
Although a frequent lender of items within Britain, Sir William stipulated 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 Scottish Parliament heard evidence that conservation, specialist packing and transportation, normally by air, have changed beyond recognition in the last 60 years.
Councillor Archie Graham, the Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “This marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Burrell Collection. We now have the opportunity to share some of Sir William’s outstanding vision with an international audience for the first time.
“Glasgow is Scotland’s cultural powerhouse and The Burrell Collection is undoubtedly the jewel in our crown. While we take forward proposals to fully refurbish and redisplay the gallery in Pollok Park, we will be able to share some of these treasures with the world and increase the international reputation not only of Sir William’s great gift, but of the city he called home.”
Sir Angus Grossart, Chairman of Burrell Renaissance, said: “We are delighted with this formal confirmation and with the strong support which we have received in the great challenge which we have set.”
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. Members include Lord John Kerr, former Head of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and UK Ambassador to the United States and Sir Peter Huchison, Chair of the Burrell Trustees. Dr Neil McGregor, Director of the British Museum is a Special Advisor to Burrell Renaissance.
The museum opened in 1983 and the general consensus is that the building now requires a full refurbishment and redisplay which will cost in the region of £45 million. 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. Proposals will be put forward to the Council for refurbishment of the museum which provides an opportunity to lend works from this internationally significant Collection not only within the UK but also to overseas institutions.
It is anticipated that the museum would close for up to four years from 2016. International lending and a tour would take in major institutions across the world. Such a tour, would be used to reaffirm the Collection’s international status while helping with public fundraising efforts toward the cost of refurbishment.
Notes to Editors:
The Burrell Collection is a major cultural asset for the city and the nation, which is of international significance. It consists of around 8000 items donated to the City of Glasgow by Sir William and Lady Burrell, housed in an award-winning museum in Pollok Park. Sir William Burrell (1861-1958) was a Glaswegian ship owner with a lifelong passion for art. Although he was not as rich as a Hearst or a Mellon, he was exceptionally knowledgeable and discerning and the Collection is internationally renowned.
The areas covered by the collection reflect outstanding representative samples, comparable in quality to the V&A or the Metropolitan Museum of New York. The largest single collection area is Chinese art. Although it has not been fully researched and published, this part of the collection is considered to be of outstanding significance and is attracting growing attention from Chinese scholars. The second great glory of the collection lies in the Late Gothic and Early Renaissance works of art from Northern Europe, including tapestries, stained glass, sculpture and furniture. The third area of strength is Burrell’s excellent collection of French art, amassed with the help of the dealer Alexander Reid, friend of van Gogh and Whistler. Other strong areas of the collection include Dutch paintings, British portraits, Islamic art, Persian, Caucasian and Indian rugs and carpets, and Near Eastern, Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities.
Under the Terms of the Collections Agreement between Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Life manages the collection on behalf of the City and submits regular reports which update the Board of Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council on any inward loans and acquisitions, the conservation and security of the Collection and forthcoming exhibitions.
For images of both the building and items from the Collection, please contact the Glasgow Life Media Office