The Victoria and Albert Museum’s (V&A) new contemporary art space has been funded by a charity linked to Dame Shirley Porter. The inaugural show in the Porter Gallery, which opened last month, is “Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft” (until 17 February 2008).
A former Conservative leader of Westminster City Council, Dame Shirley was involved in the “homes for votes” scandal in the 1980s. The Tories instituted housing arrangements which changed the social mix in marginal wards, assisting the party electorally. This policy was later deemed illegal and Dame Shirley had a surcharge fine of £27m levied on her by the District Auditor in 1996. This sum was later increased to £44m. Following lengthy proceedings, in March this year the auditor endorsed the council’s decision in 2004 to accept a payment of £12.3m from Dame Shirley, bringing the matter to a close.
The V&A’s Porter Gallery, just inside the main entrance, in the room previously occupied by the shop, was funded by the Porter Foundation, which operates in the UK and Israel. Established in 1970, the family charity was set up by Dame Shirley and her husband Sir Leslie Porter, who headed the supermarket chain Tesco. Sir Leslie died in 2005. Dame Shirley is one of the foundation’s seven trustees.
The Porter Foundation helped fund the National Portrait Gallery’s smaller temporary exhibition gallery on the ground floor and has assisted the Royal Academy.
o For further reports about British museums, see p26