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Thursday 17 October 2019

RTE 'selling the family silver' as it sends five works of art to auction to raise vital funding

RTE may sell off the tapestry The Massing Of The Armies by Louis le Brocquy. Photo: Maxwell's
RTE may sell off the tapestry The Massing Of The Armies by Louis le Brocquy. Photo: Maxwell's
Director general Dee Forbes. Photo: INM

RTE is "selling the family silver" and putting five works of art up for auction in an effort to raise cash and cut costs.

Two of the works are by Louis le Brocquy and were commissioned by RTE in 1966 and 2000.

Other pieces going under the hammer at Sotheby's on November 19 include Abstract Painting (1967) by William Scott, Symphony Orchestra (1969) by George Campbell - one of Ireland's most pre- eminent landscape painters - and Inscape Mozaga (1996) by Tony O'Malley.

Sadness

Guide prices for the pieces have not yet been released, but cash-strapped RTE, which recorded a loss of €13m last year, has pledged to reinvest the proceeds back into the organisation, without giving details of where exactly it will go.

RTE staff reacted to a circular from station chiefs with a mixture of shock and sadness.

"It's sad that we now have to flog artwork from the campus. RTE is supposed to protect culture," one source said.

Another described the decision to sell the pieces as "short sighted".

One of the biggest included in the sale is a 4.45m by 6.83m tapestry by le Brocquy called The Massing Of The Armies.

It shows a scene from the epic Tain Bo Cuailnge and is one of several images by the artist to illustrate a translation by Thomas Kinsella.

The tapestry was commiss- ioned by RTE as part of a Millennium project.

Another artwork, Tain, was commissioned in 1966.

The value of le Brocquy's work has fallen in recent years - the sale of 20 of his Tain tapestries raised €250,000 in 2012.

However, auctioneers are confident his stock will rise.

Last night, le Brocquy's widow Anne Madden said she had no moral objection to RTE selling the pieces, but thought it was making a mistake.

"They're doing the wrong thing for themselves. Art increases in value over time, it's an investment," she said.

Salaries

News of the sale follows an announcement by director general Dee Forbes that cuts should be expected as RTE could no longer afford to "continue as we are".

There have been suggestions that Lyric FM could be taken off the air and its studio sold.

Salaries of the biggest stars may also be cut, with the RTE trade union suggesting a pay ceiling of €250,000.

In 2017, RTE sold nine acres of its then 32-acre campus to developers for €107m.

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