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The Methodists’ touring art collection

21 July 2010


From Dr Peter S. Forsaith

Sir, — Two of the Revd Dr Nicholas Cranfield’s comments need correction or clarification in his otherwise generally excellent review of the Methodist Church Collection of Modern Art’s exhibition at the Wallspace Gallery (Arts, 9 July).

“The collection . . . has no public home (a scandal), and turns up from time to time on loan to churches.” The policy of the Managing Trustees of the Collection is that this is a loan collection, with up to six full exhibitions each year around the country. This is in­tended to ensure that the works can be seen and appreciated by numbers of people, and most significantly affect people’s lives as part of the Church’s mission. The exhibitions are not always in churches, but more usually now in galleries but in partnership with local churches.

“I would be concerned about the state of conservation of items usually stored at Oxford Brooks [sic] University. . .” Oxford Brookes provides a base for the Collection, freely to the Methodist Church as part of the merger agreement with the former Westminster College. The storage conditions are monitored, and, while they may not be ideal, are at least adequate — and often the Collection is only in store briefly between travelling to and from exhibitions in different parts of the country.

The condition of some of the frames and mounts is a cause of concern to the Trustees (whose responsibility conservation is), who have in recent years implemented a staged reframing and reglazing of the works as funds allow. This is part of the cost of having a collection that is made available to churches as well as to professional galleries.

As “Custodian” of the Collection over ten years, I have been, and continue to be, excited to see the Collection grow in size, use, and audience, its impact maintained as it is seen by new eyes. The exhibition has been a fine showcase, as Dr Cranfield points out, for new and potential acquisitions.

Research Fellow
The Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History
Westminster Institute of Education
Oxford Brookes University
Harcourt Hill
Oxford OX2 9AT

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