Hertfordshire County Council owns artwork worth £27m

Photographer: Michael Furze

Photographer: Michael Furze - Credit: Archant

More than £27million worth of artwork is owned by Hertfordshire County Council it emerged this week – but bosses have admitted that not all of it is on show to the public.

Artwork on display at County Hall

Artwork on display at County Hall - Credit: Archant

The authority, which is currently drawing up budget plans for the next year, faces pressure to sell off its collection in order to avoid service cuts.

Artwork on display at County Hall

Artwork on display at County Hall - Credit: Archant

A Freedom of Information request has uncovered the value of artwork owned by the authority totals £27,488,000 and includes four sculptures worth more than £300,000, 11 paintings worth more than £30,000 and two artefacts valued at more than £11,000.

The most expensive piece is a Henry Moore sculpture in Stevenage, valued at around £20m, which was installed inside Barclay School, after thieves tried to steal it from its original home in the school grounds.

The revelation follows comments before Christmas by local government minister Eric Pickles, who called on councils to sell off artwork to protect services.

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Liberal Democrat and Stevenage county councillor Robin Parker said Mr Pickles is “quite wrong” with his demands of how council’s should save money, adding selling the artwork would be like flogging the family silver. Mr Parker added: “I wasn’t aware there was a wealth of artwork which is not on display.

“We need to get it on display so as many people as possible can see it.”

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County hall leader, conservative councillor Robert Gordon, who is responsible for drawing up the budget, said there was “no need” to sell off heritage works to balance the books, but added: “On a case by case basis, we are content to sell works that have no material educational or heritage value.”

He says the authority intends to freeze council tax when budget plans are unveiled later this month.

A county hall spokesman said: “With any art collection, some works may not be on display as they are rotated or taken down to be conserved.

“For example, the Peter Collinwood wall hanging was taken down and restored while Campus West was refurbished and is now on display again in the library.

“However, we aim to keep as much of its collection as possible on view to the public of Hertfordshire.”

It has confirmed that no council-owned pieces are in private addresses.

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