Below is the complete letter submitted to the Editor at 'The Sunday Times'.
An edited version appeared in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ section of 'The Sunday Times' on 18 March, 2018.
I am writing in response to The Sunday Times article ‘National Gallery keeps £217m quiet’ (11 March, 2018).
In spite of direct government funding for picture purchase coming to an end in the 1990s, and a steady reduction in grant-in-aid, the National Gallery has, thanks in part to the support of the National Gallery Trust (NGT) and the American Friends of the National Gallery, London (AFNGL), been able to continue acquiring exceptional paintings for the collection and to sustain its range of activities.
Both the NGT and the AFNGL are independent charitable trusts whose accounts are, and always have been, publicly accessible. We have never kept the existence of the NGT or the AFNGL and their accounts “quiet” – indeed, the resources that have been built up to support our activities is something we are grateful for and proud of.
The NGT makes grants to the Gallery to support painting acquisitions, research, restoration, and education initiatives, as well as Gallery refurbishments. The NGT’s role is to support not only the present generation of National Gallery visitors, but also future generations; as a long-term endowment they make grants appropriately and sparingly. The NGT is the recipient of many donations from benefactors who want to help the Gallery.
The AFNGL was founded in 1985 with a remarkable endowment by Sir Paul Getty, augmented since then by many generous overseas patrons and supporters. The AFNGL has brought many benefits to the British public, principally in terms of the acquisition of pictures for everyone’s enjoyment, including masterpieces by Caravaggio, Poussin, Holbein, Titian, Raphael, and most recently Bellows and Bellotto.
The National Gallery has been active and successful in attracting funding of many types, an aim that all arts bodies aspire to to ensure their long-term success and stability. These efforts have been encouraged by government. This fundraising success has benefitted London, the UK, our visitors, and the many thousands of people who participate in our education programme.
We are extremely grateful to our supporters and also to the trustees of the NGT and the AFNGL for their tireless, expert, and unremunerated stewardship of these endowments.
Dr Gabriele Finaldi
Director, The National Gallery