Page last updated at 13:48 GMT, Monday, 12 October 2009 14:48 UK

RBS to make art collection public

The Atlantic Surf by Sir William McTaggart
The RBS is thought to have one of the UK's largest private collections of art

Royal Bank of Scotland is to open its collection of art to public viewing.

The Edinburgh-based bank, which is 70% owned by the taxpayer, owns more than 2,200 pieces of British art, including work by LS Lowry and David Hockney.

The bank has been pressed to display the works in the wake of its rescue with £20bn of government money.

RBS has begun talks with the National Galleries of Scotland, museums and art experts about loaning out some of the works and mounting exhibitions.

An RBS spokesman said: "We are determined to fulfil the responsibilities that come with the support we have been privileged to receive and that come with our wider position in society.

"To that end, we are actively engaged in discussions around the art collection and considering options for sharing this more widely than we have in the past."

Daniel O'Connell by Sir David Wilkie
The bank no longer has an art curator on its staff

RBS last displayed part of its collection in 2003, when 40 paintings by Scottish artists were shown at Manchester's Lowry gallery.

The bank no longer has an art curator on its staff and has confirmed it has sold work from the 1,400 pieces inherited from NatWest, including one of the most valuable, by the painter Frank Auerbach.

Arts & Business - a charity which promotes culture and the arts in business - said the bank's "embarrassment" about owning an art collection worth millions of pounds was understandable.

Chief executive Colin Tweedy said: "The difficulty is that the collection seemed to have disappeared. I was worried it had been thrown away and damaged.

"My view is that this is something they should be proud of, instead of being embarrassed.

"It is not only a public duty [to exhibit the art] but also a business opportunity, because people will see some wonderful British work and realise it is owned by RBS."

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