Northern Ireland news

Artworks worth more than £14 million owned by councils across Northern Ireland

The F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio, dedicated to the memory of the Banbridge-born eponymous sculptor

ARTWORKS worth more than £14 million are owned by councils across Northern Ireland, although not every ratepayer will be able to see theirs.

Councils have bought 117 new pieces of art since 2016/7 - although the value of what each local authority holds varies greatly.

The figures compiled by the Taxpayers Alliance show Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon council has accumulated the most expensive collection, worth more than £6.5 million.

Its F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio is dedicated to the memory of the Banbridge-born eponymous sculptor - one of Ireland's most influential and successful artists.

In 1992, his estate executors donated his studio and its contents to the town of his birth, which now features a permanent display of his work and temporary exhibitions of Irish and international art.

Armagh County Museum has two temporary exhibition galleries on the first floor through which it rotate an "extensive art collection" as well as a selection of paintings permanently on view throughout the building.

Just two artworks were added to the council's 1,034-strong collection since 2016/17.

Lisburn and Castlereagh, which purchased 42 works in over the past three years, has the least valuable collection of those records, with 185 pieces worth £11,622.

Forty-one per cent are displayed for public viewing and its Island arts centre is a leading multi-arts venue.

Derry City and Strabane council added five pieces to its £2,557,546 collection of 981 works - with just 159 on public display.

Causeway Coast and Glens purchased two new works and holds 1,224 worth £2 million - with the number on display `unknown'.

Ards and North Down has a 285-piece collection worth £1.4m, of which it displays 15 per cent.

Fermanagh and Omagh has bought 16 pieces since 2016/17, now holding a 210-part collection worth £1,218,960 - 77 of these are on public display.

Belfast added 43 to make a collection of 2,053 pieces, displaying 56 per cent.

Taxpayers Alliance accused local authorities of "pleading poverty (as) council curators are holding onto billions of pounds worth of art while only displaying less than a third".

However, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said the "purchase of contemporary art over many years has been valuable and important for artists and the public".

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news