The Mayor of Salford has urged wealthy footballers and clubs to consider buying LS Lowry’s painting ‘Going to the Match’ when it is auctioned next month in a bid to keep the ‘great tragedy and scandal’ from disappearing from public view .
The 1953 work by one of Britain’s best-known and best-loved painters is expected to break records when it is sold by the Professional Footballers’ Association next month. Christie’s, the auction house handling the sale, estimates it will fetch up to £8million.
The new owner must keep it freely accessible to the public, said Paul Dennett, the mayor of Salford, and Julia Fawcett, managing director of the Lowry museum and gallery where the painting is on display.
Dennett said he was “extremely concerned” that the painting ended up in a private collection. “My concern is that a work that has been on public view at the Lowry for 22 years and champions the work of one of our great artists may be lost from public view and public access.”
With severe pressure on local authorities’ resources at a time of deepening economic crisis, it is impossible for Salford City Council to buy the work, he said.
But he added: “I would personally like to ask the football community here in Greater Manchester to look into keeping this painting for the people of Greater Manchester. There is a lot of money in this community so it wouldn’t be too difficult to find more than £8million.”
Fawcett said there was precedent for Lowry paintings to have been purchased by individuals but “came to our gallery straight from the auction house. We would like to speak to the buyer [of Going To The Match] about the responsibility that goes with owning such a work.”
The gallery wasn’t able to buy it, and there was little time before the October 19 auction to try to raise funds, she said.
“This isn’t just any painting. We have school trips, children come to study the work. It is clearly linked to the social history of our city. It’s not only seen by traditional art lovers; The painting attracts the ordinary people it depicts. We have busloads of football fans arriving before a game.”
Lowry, famous for his stick figures and industrial scenes in mid-20th century North West England, created a number of football images, the best known of which is Going to the Match.
The stadium in the painting was Burnden Park, the former home of Bolton Wanderers, near Lowry’s home in Pendlebury. It was demolished in 1999 and the site is now a shopping mall.
In addition to the crowds pouring towards the turnstiles, the painting shows crowded terraces inside the stadium, surrounding terraced houses and factories in the background.
Dennett said: “Lowry captured working class life and celebrated the football community. This isn’t about superstar salaries, it’s about the institutional role of football in our communities. It would be a great tragedy and scandal if this were to be lost from Lowry’s artistic ecosystem, which is held by the City of Salford.”
In 1999, the PFA paid £1.9million, more than four times the estimate, for Going to the Match. Gordon Taylor, then-CEO, said it was “quite simply the best football painting of all time.”
It is being sold to raise funds for the Players Foundation, the charitable arm of the PFA, which became a separate entity earlier this year as part of a reorganization prompted by an alert from the Charity Commission. It helps players and former players on matters such as education, pensions, health and legal issues.
The PFA has been “responsible owners” for 22 years, Fawcett said. She had been aware of plans to sell the painting for several months.
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