The influential Museums Association and members of the Riesco family have added their voices to the condemnations of Croydon Council’s proposal to flog off some of the most valuable items from the publicly owned and priceless Riesco Collection of ancient Ming china.
The Museums Association has described the Croydon proposal to sell 24 of the most valuable items from the Riesco Collection as “unethical”.
The collection, which dates from Neolithic times to the 19th century, includes Tang dynasty tomb models and Ming dynasty bowls. Croydon is looking to auction 24 items from the collection through Sotheby’s, probably in Hong Kong, where the strong Chinese market would ensure the highest sale prices.
But Jacqueline Wendleken has signed a petition opposing the sale of her great-grandfather, Raymond Riesco’s, bequest to the people of Croydon. “He spent a lifetime collecting this and donated it to the public. The sale should not be allowed to happen,” she said.
Wendleken’s opposition runs contrary to the council’s claim that, “The proposal has the backing of the Riesco family”.
It is believed that this council claim is based on one visit by Dudley Mead, the deputy leader of the Tory group on the council, to the Surrey home of Riesco’s daughter, Jean, in late April. The council has not been forthcoming about what the legal basis is for this visit, or any undertakings that may have been given.
Jean, now 98 years old, was an honoured guest at Heathfield House last Saturday during its ecology centre open day, visiting her former family home which was also left to the borough in her father’s will. It is understood that other senior members of her family share the reservations about the disposal as aired by Wendleken.
Mead, a retired accountant and the cabinet member for finance, has already committed the heavily indebted council to spending £27 million it hasn’t got on refurbishing the Fairfield Halls.
His scheme to raise £13 million from the Riesco sale is that this money would be used for “culture” in Croydon. Recent cultural attractions at the Fairfield Halls have included all-in wrestling, a Queen tribute act and a tattooists’ convention.
Mead is a long-standing member of the Fairfield Halls management board.
Mead and his Conservative council colleague Tim Pollard will be called before the Museum Association to try to explain Croydon’s latest act of Philistanism.
Nick Merriman, the convenor of the Museum Association’s ethics committee, said: “Croydon did not approach us, we heard about this case through the press… The council should follow the formal procedure according to the code of ethics. At the moment it is not clear to us that they are doing so.
“We would particularly like to know why the collection is not considered core as we understand it was part of the founding deposit at the museum.”
This was one of the points first raised last week on Inside Croydon by Hamida Ali, who suggested that any sale of the Riesco Collection would undermine the approved status of the Croydon Museum, with consequences possibly including the council having to make a refund of some of its multi-million pound Lottery and Arts Council grants.
Maurice Davies, the Museum Association’s head of policy and communications, said: “We are keen to have a dialogue so that we can help them understand what the code of ethics prohibits and what it allows in defining exceptional circumstances for financially motivated disposal.
“The code of ethics is very clear on these criteria.”
- If you want to add your name to the gathering protest against the sale of the Riesco Collection, click here to sign the online petition, and share the link with your friends and colleagues
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