A major painting by the late English artist LS Lowry will go up for auction at Christie’s Modern British and Irish Art sale in London on Wednesday, and his potential departure from his hometown has sparked an outcry.
Since Salford City Council, where Lowry was born, could not afford to buy go to game themselves, Salford Mayor Paul Dennett is calling on local figures and wealthy athletes to pitch in and ensure the work stays on Salford soil.
Lowry’s painting from 1953 depicts revelers rushing to the now defunct Bolton Wanderers ground at Burnden Park for a football match. A statement from the city council says it is currently owned by the Professional Footballers’ Association Players Foundation, a charity union of athletes, who bought it in 1999 for nearly $2.2 million.
Then-CEO Gordon Taylor called it “simply the finest football painting ever”, according to the Guardian. The Foundation expects to earn more than $9 million from the upcoming sale.
go to game lived at the Lowry, a free museum in Salford celebrating the artist’s legacy, over the past 22 years, on loan from the Players Foundation. Dennett’s letter said he was “taught in schools and colleges across the country.”
Artnet News is still waiting to hear if Dennett has heard from potential buyers.
The Players Foundation parted ways with the Professional Footballers Association earlier this year, the Guardian reported, due to an ongoing investigation by the England Charity Commission. The foundation announced the sale of go to game shortly after the separation of the entities, in order to raise funds for the new organization.
CNN reported that the silver will combat dementia among retired gamers.
There is no guarantee that the new owner of the work will not move it from the Lowry to a private collection. “The very essence of LS Lowry’s work is to engage in the lives of working people,” Dennett’s letter read. “It would be a travesty if this work were removed from spaces where workers can see it.”
go to game is already on an international tour with Christie’s, and its sale seems certain. Dennett even urged the British government to temporarily ban the export of the work.
“We will take the work across the country and beyond,” his plea concludes, “and the story of how it was preserved for the public will be part of his legacy.”
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