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Monday, 26 February, 2001, 18:04 GMT
Commuter art shows mooted
Turner painting
Works by Turner are part of the Tate's collection of national treasures
Rarely seen national art treasures could soon be put on show at railway stations and airports across Britain under a plan being put forward by a Labour MP.

Gordon Prentice has proposed the idea after discovering that 14% of pieces from the national collection were never put on display to the general public.

These include works held by some of the country's most prestigious art galleries and institutions, including the Tate Gallery and the Science Museum.

My calculations tell me that 14% of items from the national collection are not available for the general public to view and I think that's unfortunate

Gordon Prentice MP

Mr Prentice's idea to put these pieces - ranging from canvasses to sculptures - on display has the backing of arts minister Alan Howarth and Tory ex-minister Nicholas Soames.

Mr Howarth told MPs - during question time in the House of Commons - that an estimated 1,202 items were on loan from national galleries and museums.

He added that of these pieces only 86% were on public display.

Mr Prentice then stressed: "My calculations tell me that 14% of items from the national collection are not available for the general public to view and I think that's unfortunate."

He continued: "Why isn't it possible to show some of these items from our national collections in public spaces?

"I'm thinking about airport concourses or railway concourses - with proper protection - and so introduce our citizens to the glories of our national collection."


At present, 15% of the Tate collection - which includes Tate Britain, Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool - can be viewed at any given time.

Only 18% of the works belonging to the National Portrait Gallery are on show - including pictures of some of history's most illustrious celebrities and politicians.

Science Museum
London's Science Museum would be part of the scheme

The Science Museum has around 5% of its collection on display at any one time.

Many of the UK's galleries have a good system of loaning works to smaller galleries around the country, particularly the Tate.

In addition, the Science Museum in London will soon be able to display many more parts of its collection on a new site at Swindon.

But Mr Prentice believes access to more works should be increased.

Mr Soames agreed, saying: "Mr Prentice is perfectly right in suggesting that there are many other spaces that could be provided to hang some of these pictures."

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