Allowing the Burrell Collection to be exhibited overseas could put both Scotland and Glasgow on the international stage, the Culture Secretary has said.
Fiona Hyslop gave her backing to new legislation that would allow the collection to be lent out to galleries and museums abroad.
Shipping magnate Sir William Burrell, who died in 1958, gifted thousands of pieces of artwork and historical artefacts to the city of Glasgow, but imposed a strict condition that these should not go abroad, as he apparently feared items could be damaged in transit.
Legislation to give Glasgow City Council the power to lend out the artworks, including overseas, is currently before the Scottish Parliament.
With the dedicated building that houses the collection in need of renovation, arts bosses want to send some of the works on an international tour.
This would take place when the building in Pollok Park was closed for refurbishment - which could take up to four years and cost £45 million.
But it is hoped the tour would raise some cash towards this, as well as boosting the collection’s profile.
Ms Hyslop stressed the significance of the Burrell Collection, which includes medieval, Chinese, French and Islamic art, and said it was “one of Scotland’s great cultural assets”.
She told MSPs it was “one of the most prominent and varied in Scotland” but added it was “not currently housed within a habitat that is commensurate with its status”.
The Culture Secretary said the Burrell Collection (Lending and Borrowing) (Scotland) Bill was “aimed at securing the long-term sustainability of that building while looking at new ways to promote the collection to a wider audience, allowing more people to learn about and enjoy them than ever before”.
She added to enable this to happen Glasgow City Council, the promoters of the Bill, had decided to try to “overturn the express wishes of Sir William Burrell” to gain permission to send the artworks overseas.
Ms Hyslop said that Sir William had “wanted his works of art to be seen and appreciated”, telling MSPs: “This Government shares in this belief.
“That is why increasing cultural participation by maximising the number and range of people who see collections and visit and enjoy museums is a key aim of Scotland’s national strategy for museums and galleries.
“Allowing lending from the Burrell Collection is consistent with this aim and it would bring the collection to the attention of an international audience and enable people from all over the world to see and appreciate it, thus raising its profile and putting Glasgow and Scotland on an international stage.”
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