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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 18 Jul 1928

Vol. 25 No. 6


The Dáil went into Committee.

As I said in connection with the preceding stage of this Bill, we on these Benches heartily support it. The principle is sound and commendable. It is a recognition of the part which Art might possibly play in life and, also, an appreciation that what is good in art and literature as in anything else is not for a few aesthetes, but affects the whole nation, and might affect it from the industrial side as well.

Section agreed to.
Sections 2 and 3 agreed to.

I think that this section is rather dangerous. It proposes to allow pictures to be loaned outside this country. This country is in a peculiar geographical position in view of the fact that we are the next door neighbours to the greatest picture-stealing nation in the world. I do not know whether it is altogether right that we are to run the risk of lending some of our pictures to this nation of picture-stealers, because we may never see them again. There is nothing in the section which enacts that the Governors should be obliged only to lend our pictures when we get the loan of other pictures in return. There is a slight difficulty in the second sub-section of Section 4 which states that pictures shall not be lent to any country which cannot by law lend pictures to this country. There is no obligation on the Governors to lend pictures only when they get others in return. Perhaps the Minister would explain what countries are meant in that particular sub-section. I do not know if the nation of picture-stealers have got by law facilities for lending their pictures outside, or whether it is continental countries are aimed at, but perhaps the Minister will explain.

There is another matter affecting the Bill which I do not altogether understand, that is whether there will be any financial transactions involved in these matters; whether we can lend pictures we will get some money on the loan, on the hire system. Certainly a certain amount of money will be spent on transport of the picture and in insurance and possibly in the organisation of the various exhibitions. I do not know where that money is to come from or whether any substantial sum will be spent in that direction.

I am rather surprised at Deputy Esmonde raising a point of finance in connection with this; not exactly so much his last point, but the previous point, namely, whether we can get money for the loan of the picture.

The situation is this: It is usual in the different civilised countries in Europe to hold exhibitions of pictures. For instance, I think there is, this year, an exhibition in Spain of Goya pictures. We were unable to send pictures there, even though the Spanish Government, or those organising the exhibitions, were quite willing to pay for the transport of the pictures to Spain and for their insurance. Generally speaking, where there is an international exhibition—and that is the type meant to be dealt with— when such an exhibition of pictures is organised the organising Government or people acting for them generally undertake to pay the cost of the transport to and fro, and also full insurance on the pictures. The pictures will be fully insured against any loss——

Or against being stolen.

That I consider loss. There is no danger of the type indicated by Deputy Esmonde. It is not proposed that any additional money will be put upon the Exchequer so far as this Bill is concerned. If subsequently the House and the nation think that public money could be usefully spent in that particular way it will require another Bill. This Bill gives no power to expend public money.

What is the significance of this sub-section (2)?

It is simply a reciprocity arrangement. If we hold an exhibition of pictures in this country we will get pictures also from them just as we lend pictures to them. That is the idea.

Has the Minister any idea of obtaining a loan of the Lane pictures from another country?

They are holding on to them.

I think the Deputy misrepresents them completely. We know they are very anxious to restore them to us, and that it is only a meticulous respect for the law which does not hold in this country that checks their generous impulse. Perhaps we might be able to secure them by way of loan. Then, of course, we could pass an Act not to return them.

Section 4 agreed to.
The remaining Sections, 5 and 6, were agreed to, and the Bill was ordered to be reported without amendment.
The Dáil went out of Committee.
Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

I want to ask the Minister if he has in the back of his mind the suggestion thrown out by Deputy Esmonde that there might be some reciprocity between the various countries in the matter of the lending of pictures? I claim to have some knowledge on this subject. We have had on occasion very successful exhibits, some of the old masters, in Cork, and we have a fairly decent collection. Various schools of art are represented in that selection, and I am sorry to say that it is not what I would like to see it. It would be some inspiration to our young sculptors if we had some sculpture as well as paintings. I do not know that this Bill contemplates anything in the nature of sculpture. I would suggest to the Minister that he consider the advisability of entering into negotiations with other countries who have decent galleries and who would reciprocate—that we, having some decent works of art, lend them to those countries provided that they in turn lend us some of their best works. I just want to put that to the Minister as a matter on which he might give us some information.

It is really a matter of the precise importance attached to the particular exhibition that is being held. If we had been able to lend pictures to some international exhibition during the past few years, the appearance of the pictures there and the notice they would have got would have actually increased the value of our pictures. That is so. In fact, before a flaw was discovered and before it was discovered that the National Gallery could not lend pictures to any exhibition, it had been their custom to lend pictures, and, as a rule, some of these pictures got very favourable notice, and thereby the prestige of the pictures in the Gallery and of the Gallery itself was increased. This is a matter for the organisers of the exhibition. Take the case of the people in Cork. If the people in Cork had an exhibition, it would not have been possible for us, without this Bill, to lend our own pictures to them. Under this Bill it is possible to lend the pictures. Whether other countries would lend pictures to Cork would depend upon the value they would attach to their exhibition there. In the same way, the Governors of the National Gallery would be guided by the importance of the exhibition as to whether they would lend any of their pictures elsewhere.

Would it be possible to arrange for certain pictures to be lent to the large provincial towns and cities?

Under this Bill money could not be spent on that, but if the towns or cities in the provinces would undertake the cost, it would be possible. Otherwise it would not be possible.

The expenses must be borne by the local body?

This Bill gives no authority to spend money. But under this Bill they can lend the pictures—that is, if the local authority puts up a case to the Governors and the Governors agree.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Bill do now pass.

Question—"That the Bill do now pass"—put and agreed to.
Message to be sent to the Seanad accordingly.