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Dispute at Jerwood Gallery threatens loss of 300 artworks

Dispute at Jerwood Gallery threatens loss of 300 artworks

An award-winning art gallery in Hastings, East Sussex, is set to lose the majority of its artworks and also its funding after a breakdown in relations between its sponsor and its management. The Jerwood Gallery will lose 300 works by artists including LS Lowry, Barbara Hepworth and Stanley Spencer, by November, having received a repossession…


An award-winning art gallery in Hastings, East Sussex, is set to lose the majority of its artworks and also its funding after a breakdown in relations between its sponsor and its management.

TheJerwood Gallerywill lose 300 works by artists including LS Lowry, Barbara Hepworth and Stanley Spencer, by November, having received a repossession notice from the Jerwood Foundation. It will have to change its name and will stop receiving funds from the foundation, which has provided £2.6m in grants since the gallery opened in 2012.

Relations between the two sides appeared to have reached a low on Sunday when the gallery hit back after Alan Grieve, the foundation’s chairman, accused it of being slow to raise funds from third parties.

In a statement, the gallery all but declared talks dead, noting disappointment that the foundation had “broken off these discussions by making public statements when negotiations are not yet concluded”.

Grieve, 91, who assembled the collection of works on behalf of the late multimillionaire pearl dealer John Jerwood, told the Sunday Telegraph the decision had arisen after a dispute with the gallery’s director, Liz Gilmore, and its chairman, David Pennock.

He said the foundation told managers in 2016 that it would not provide funding beyond 2019 because “that was as far as we could go financially”.

Though the gallery will be left with only a handful of its own works, it will remain as a tenant in the foundation’s £5m space, occupying it on a lease due for renewal in three years.

According to Grieve, his suggestion that the gallery should appoint an executive director with a background in business was not taken onboard.

In early 2017, the Jerwood Gallery registered as a charity to seek alternative funding and greater independence from the foundation. It procured a £100,000 annual grant from the Arts Council, half the sum sought. The foundation had provided the gallery with a £300,000 grant annually.

Later in the year, the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan was hired by the gallery to accuse the Jerwood Foundation of failing to meet obligations on funding, claimed Grieve. The aim was to pressure the foundation to continue making grants beyond 2019, he said.

Grieve, a former City lawyer who is responsible for distributing ₤90m in arts funding on behalf of the Jerwood Foundation, said: “Instead of meeting to resolve a dispute that wasn’t in anyone’s interests we had a rather long series of allegations from Quinn Emanuel. This was a bit of an upset … and difficult to recover the ground after that.”

While the foundation offered the gallery reduced funding until 2021, the gallery’s management had refused in recent weeks to rule out legal action, said Grieve.

A spokesperson for the gallery, who emphasised that its trustees were committed to keeping the space open, said: “Disengagement discussions between the foundation and the gallery include the departure of the Jerwood collection from the gallery. The gallery has built a name for itself through its temporary exhibitions programme, often in partnership with national institutions such as Tate and the National Gallery.

“The departure of the Jerwood collection will allow the gallery to use the full potential of its remarkable building, offering a broader range of exhibitions for the different audience groups it has built.”

The gallery, which is in discussions to secure more funding fromArts Council Englandand other partners, is expected to organise more temporary exhibitions after the removal of the Jerwood collection.

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