Sunday, 12 September 2010

Lord Sainsbury donates £25m to British Museum (via Dawn Holloway)

A Conservative peer has donated £25m to the British Museum in what is thought to be the biggest gift to the arts for two decades.


The money, from Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover - a former chairman of the supermarket chain - will go towards a major redevelopment of the London museum's facilities.

It will help fund a new World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre.

A spokeswoman for the museum described the donation as "incredibly generous".

She said the gift was a vital part of a project which would "benefit future generations".

"This is an incredibly important project for the British Museum and has been planned for a long time," the spokeswoman added.

£125m project
Donations from other private donors and a £22.5m government grant are also being used to fund the project, which will feature a conservation and science centre.

The centre, which will cost more than £125m, will include a gallery to house temporary collections which can compete with other UK and international institutions.

Planning permission for the centre was granted by Camden Council in October 2009.

The building will be made of glass and traditional stone, which the museum says will blend well with its Grade I listed surroundings.

The exhibition main space will be more than 1,000 sq m (10,764 sq ft), large enough to accommodate big temporary exhibitions such as the 2007 display of Chinese terracotta warriors.

Until now these have been held in the Reading Room, resulting in controversy because the historic surroundings were obscured.

New science laboratories will be built in the centre in which exhibits can be researched and restored.

State of the art machinery will be installed to study artefacts in forensic detail.

The gift comes at a time when many cultural organisations are facing a funding squeeze amid financial cutbacks.

The Sunday Times reported Lord Sainsbury's gift as the biggest to the arts in Britain since philanthropist Sir Paul Getty pledged £50m to the National Gallery and £40m to the British Film Institute in 1985.

In the same year, Lord Sainsbury and his brothers The Hon Simon Sainsbury and Sir Timothy Sainsbury financed the construction of the Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery, which cost a total of about £50m and opened in 1991.

The Sunday Times said Lord Sainsbury's other donations include £10m for a recent renovation of Oxford's Ashmolean Museum and money for the Linbury studio theatre at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11274399

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