RARE ITEMS from Croydon museum’s Riesco ceramics collection are going under the hammer in Hong Kong today (Wednesday) following Croydon council’s controversial decision to sell off part of it.
Croydon’s decision – which they say has been caused by unaffordable security and insurance costs – has led to them resigning in protest from the Museums Association which had threatened to ban them if the sale went ahead.
A move by campaigners to call for a judicial review foundered through lack of funds.
Estimates for the 24 items iin today’s sale range from as low as 130,000 US dollars to 2.6 million US dollars (Today’s exchange rate is 10,000 US dollars = £6,129.70p.)
The brochure for the sale by auctioneers Christie’s states that Raymond Riesco – Jimmy to his friends – spent his early childhood in South Norwood. *
In its statement in July Croydon council said the decision to sell had been made after concerns were raised over unaffordable security and insurance costs, following a recent valuation of the collection.
“Due to these issues, the items in question have been taken off display at the Riesco gallery in the Croydon Clocktower. “The remaining 206 pieces of the collection are still on show for the public to see.
“The council sought the views of key stakeholders including Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, as required by the council’s museum collections development policy.”
IN JUNE, the Museums Association, learning of Croydon’s plans to sell off part of the collection, said the proposals did not meet their code of ethics.
Nick Merriman, convener of the MA’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.”
ON NOVEMBER 11th the Museums Association said a legal challenge to Croydon’s decision to sell the items had been withdrawn due to lack of funds – and announced that it would bar Croydon from future membership if it proceeded with its planned sale.
“Campaigners attempting to force a judicial review of the Croydon sale have this morning withdrawn their court action, citing a lack of funds to pay ongoing legal costs” the MA added.
(Croydon council had already announced its resignation from the MA. On September 30th it issued a statement saying:”This follows the MA’s ethics committee ruling that the council should face disciplinary action for deciding to sell 24 Chinese ceramics from its Riesco Collection.
“The council learnt it was to be invited to a disciplinary hearing through the media, after the MA published the announcement on its website.
“It said the council had breached the MA’s code of ethics, before giving the council the opportunity to present its case at the hearing.
“The council has never previously received funding from the MA and will still be able to continue providing a museum service despite resigning its membership.
“No longer having membership will mean the council no longer receives a copy of the Museums Journal or discounts at conferences and training events.”
The statement quoted Cllr Tim Pollard, cabinet member for children, families and learning, who said: “Sadly it appears the Museums Association has already made up its mind that the council should face disciplinary action.
“Therefore it appears attending any hearing to explain the council’s position would be futile.“We were also disappointed with the way the MA has failed to communicate directly with the council and believe it has not followed its own procedure.” )
*(In its statement in July Croydon said the proceeds of the sale could also be used to provide a significant contribution to the urgent investment needed in Croydon’s cultural infrastructure, such as the refurbishment of the Fairfield halls. Whether this will include the Stanley halls in South Norwood remains to be seen).