Monday, April 9, 2012
April 9, 1838, the National Gallery of the United Kingdom opens its doors at its new location on Trafalgar Square in London. Previously, the entire National Gallery collection is housed at the prestigious residence of wealthy banker and art collector John Julius Angerstein. In 1824, the British House of Commons purchases the art collection from Angerstein for 57,000 pounds and the collection is displayed at Angerstein’s home for the next 14 years until the new and more suitable site is completed. Following significant debate about the best location to house the collection, the British Parliament decides on Trafalgar Square in central London. The location is seen as ideal for the free gallery because it is not only accessible to wealthy citizens in West London who travel by carriage, but also to poor citizens living in the East End.
Last week, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) began its campaign calling for an end to the National Gallery’s support and sponsorship of arms trade events paid for by Finmeccanica U.K.—a British subsidiary of the Italian arms trade manufacturer. Over the last few years, the National Gallery has hosted several Finmeccanica arms trade events at the prestigious gallery in London, attracting representatives from various authoritarian regimes from around the world. Finmeccanica has an agreement with the National Gallery to pay 30,000 pounds ($47,631) a year in exchange for the opportunity to present two dinners or receptions per year, in addition to other benefits, reported The Huffington Post. Recently, such events included receptions for weapons fairs Defense & Security Equipment International (DSEi) and the Farnborough air show. CAAT is urging art lovers to write letters to National Gallery Director Nicholas Penny asking him to end the gallery’s relationship with Finmeccanica and pledge not to accept further funding from the arms industry.