Exhibitions Museums United Kingdom

Glasgow’s Burrell Collection gets pass to travel

A Scottish parliamentary committee overturns William Burrell’s original bequest forbidding the works to be lent abroad over fears they would get damaged at sea

Works from the Burrell Collection, such as Degas's The Rehearsal, 1871, could soon go on tour internationally

Overturning a 1958 bequest, a Scottish parliamentary committee has agreed that Glasgow’s Burrell Collection should be allowed to tour its art overseas, to raise funds for refurbishing its building. This clears the way for a travelling exhibition that would stop in six international venues, including some in the US.

The committee reported that the collection “hoped to raise £15m through sponsorship and fundraising as a result of loans and a tour”. However, the committee remained sceptical, saying it was “not fully convinced” that the tour would generate this sum.

When William Burrell bequeathed his collection to Glasgow in 1958 he specified that the works should never be lent abroad, because he feared they could be damaged at sea. His museum opened in 1983 and the building is now in urgent need of repairs and upgrading. The city council, backed by the Burrell Collection trustees, is therefore seeking parliamentary approval to change the terms of his bequest, primarily because art and air transport are now much safer.

A touring exhibition of 100 highlights from the collection is expected to go to the US, and there have been discussions with Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Collection, both in New York. Venues in Canada, France, Russia, Japan, Australia and Qatar are also being considered.

The private bill allowing international loans will go for its first reading in the full Scottish Parliament later in November, when it is expected to be approved. It should receive final parliamentary approval in January. The Burrell Collection is due to close in 2016 for a four-year refurbishment, costing £45m.

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