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Tuesday, 19 February 2013 17:11

UK Receives Major Donation of Baroque Paintings

A remarkable collection of Italian Baroque paintings worth $155 million has been donated to galleries and museums across the UK. The works were previously part of the private collection of Sir Denis Mahon, a philanthropist and heir to the Guinness Mahon banking fortune who died in 2011 at the age of 100. Mahon, who began collecting in the 1930s, was an avid believer that admission to public museums should be free of charge. In keeping with his wishes, Mahon’s generous gift will be revoked if any institution charges the public to see them.

The Art Fund charity, which oversaw the exchange, announced that the transfer of 57 Italian Baroque paintings has been completed. The National Gallery has received 25 works; 12 paintings went to the Ashmolean in Oxford; 8 pieces are now in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh; 6 works went to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge; the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery received 5 paintings; and one work was given to the Temple Newsam House in Leeds. The gift included works by Guercino (1591-1666), Guido Reni (1575-1642), Domenichino (1581-1641), and Ludovico Carracci (1555-1619).

In addition to the sizable donation, Mahon left $1.5 million to the Art Fund and 50 works associated with Guercino to the Ashmolean.  

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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville announced Thursday that it won't charge admission for patrons to see what's promised to be one of the best art collections in the nation.

The museum will replace that revenue with a $20 million grant from Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which will provide the money over five years. The museum had planned to charge $10 per person.

The museum is funded by the fortune of Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton and has been outbidding top museums for acquisitions that will go on display to the public on Nov. 11.

Wal-Mart President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Duke said the world's largest retailer made the donation so its workers and the rest of the community could regularly enjoy the museum.

Crystal Bridges Executive Director Don Bacigalupi said the gift enables the museum to "become a daily resource in our community."

"One of the greatest challenges for museums today is finding ways to remove barriers to community participation, including admission charges," Bacigalupi said.

The museum and grounds, designed by architect Moshe Safdie, are expected to attract visitors from around the world.

Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department Director Joe David Rice said the free admission will help generate tourism from state residents and the larger surrounding area. Bentonville is in the far northwest corner of Arkansas, and Rice said free admission will help draw repeat visits from people on day trips from Tulsa, Okla., Springfield, Mo., southeast Kansas and other communities.

"We're trying to figure out exactly how big this is going to be up there," Rice said.

The Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock turned the city's formerly desolate downtown into a thriving area with new hotels and office buildings, loft apartments, galleries, nightclubs and museums.

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