Irish Georgian Society

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The vision of the Irish Georgian Society is to conserve, protect and foster a keen interest and a respect for Ireland’s architectural heritage and decorative arts. These aims are achieved through its scholarly and conservation education programmes, through its support of conservation projects and planning issues, and vitally, through its members and their activities.

Letter to The Irish Times: Russborough House old masters

17.06.2016

Posted by IGS

Sir, – The planned sale by the Alfred Beit Foundation (ABF) of works by Peter Paul Rubens and Francesco Guardi in a forthcoming sale in Christie’s in London will represent a further diminution of the extraordinary collection of art that, together with Russborough, Sir Alfred and Lady Beit left to the ABF for the benefit of the Irish nation.

The Irish Georgian Society greatly regrets the decision to pursue this sale and maintains a view that a paramount priority of the ABF should be to safeguard the integrity of the Beit legacy as a whole.

The Irish Georgian Society is of the opinion that the ABF missed out on a singular opportunity to build on the widespread public interest in the legacy of the Beits that arose from the planned sale of old masters from their collection in 2015.

Through newspaper columns, radio coverage, social media and other outlets, thousands of people indicated their support for the cancellation of that sale. To its credit, the ABF responded and found alternative solutions which included the acquisition and donation of a number of exceptional artworks to the National Gallery of Ireland by individual benefactors.

The Irish Georgian Society suggests that the ABF recalls the enthusiasm and interest of those members of the general public who last year championed Russborough and its collections. It is this very response that should be nurtured by the arts and heritage sector at a time when its perceived importance by government is being diminished.

Given the scale of the Beits’ generosity and past government initiatives to promote philanthropy in the arts, the Government too should reflect on these views.

A generous engagement with the ABF with the aim of securing the future of the Beits’ legacy would present an opportunity for it to reassure the public of its commitment to the arts and heritage sectors.

Accepting the diminution of the Beit collections through the sale and dispersal or artworks is a sad reflection on the state of the arts in the country today. Such legacies should be celebrated and, in doing so, the country should aspire to attract the generosity of other cultural philanthropists. Doing otherwise might instead make them question the capacity of the country to safeguard any large donations into the future.

The protection of one of Ireland’s greatest cultural inheritances should encourage a partnership approach that could not only provide a means of support for Russborough in the long term but also facilitate future acts of philanthropy. – Yours, etc,

Sir DAVID DAVIES,

President,

Irish Georgian Society,

South William Street,

Dublin 2.

Original letter