Thursday, June 4, 2015
A Grand Mansion and a Sale of Paintings in Ireland
all in the news because the foundation wants to sell nine paintings to raise money. This is the best, Portrait of a Bearded Man by Peter Paul Rubens. The plan has led to an outcry from Irish art lovers, especially leftist art lovers who hold it as a principle that no work of art accessible to the public should ever disappear into private hands.
But if the house is to remain open, the money has to come from somewhere, and Ireland is just not a rich enough country to pay for keeping up all of its heritage with public funds. The real jewels of Beit's art collection (Goyas, Vermeers, others by Rubens) are safely in the Irish National Gallery, which has the resources to protect them from theft and decay. I feel the same way about this as I do about many other incidents involving museum collections: you can't save everything. Decisions have to be made about what can preserved for the public and what needs to be let go, and these days museum fanatics are, I think, pressing way too hard to keep every scrap of art and history. As a result many thousands of artifacts are locked up in museum basements when they could be the centerpieces of private collections. If the Russborough House keeps all of its paintings but then goes bankrupt and has to close, who has gained?