National Gallery rejects concerns it has been 'hiding' £217m fund

The charity says the money, the majority of which is being held in a US-based trust, has been openly declared

The National Gallery
The National Gallery

The National Gallery has defended itself against claims that it is sitting on about £220m, which the gallery said was held by independent charities in the UK and that US, and that the money is published in its public accounts.

In a story published in The Sunday Times newspaper yesterday, the gallery was accused of hiding reserves of £217m, which is far greater than many other major London art galleries and despite the gallery fundraising from the government to purchase paintings.

The reserves combine funds held by the National Gallery Trust, a UK charity, and the American Friends of the National Gallery London, which is registered in the US.

The National Gallery Trust’s most recent accounts, which cover the year to 31 March 2017, show the charity had total funds worth more than £87m, £51.9m of which was restricted.

The latest accounts for the American Friends of the National Gallery London, which cover the year to 31 December 2016, shows the US charity had net assets of $191.3m (£138m).

In a statement, the National Gallery said that both the National Gallery Trust and the American Friends of the National Gallery London were independent charitable trusts and both published their accounts publicly with the relevant charity regulator in the UK and US.

The statement said that the trust’s assets mainly came from donations and legacies, some of which were restricted to "particular areas of the gallery’s activities", and that the trust also received profits from the National Gallery Company, which runs its commercial activities.

"The purpose of the NGT is to support not only the present generation of National Gallery visitors, but also future generations," the statement said.

"It invests its funds prudently and makes grants to the gallery for the purposes which the trust considers most important and which are in line with the wishes of its benefactors.

"The trust has supported the gallery in its public mission of caring for the collection and developing its education programmes, as well as funding some major refurbishment projects."

The statement said that the American Friends of the National Gallery London was founded in 1985 by a large endowment from the American philanthropist Sir Paul Getty, and has also received funding from other individuals and trusts.

"The establishment of the AFNGL for the benefit of the National Gallery has helped to make it possible for us to buy paintings by Caravaggio, Daddi, Holbein and Poussin, to name a few," the statement said.

"The endowment fund remains an ongoing legacy which has brought – and will continue to bring – many benefits to the National Gallery and to the British public, principally in terms of acquisition of pictures for the enjoyment of everyone."

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