The National Museum of Wales – an institution owned and maintained by taxpayers – has refused to make public the details of its negotiations with Penarth Town Council on the future of the Turner House Art Gallery in Plymouth Road, Penarth.
Penarth Town Council – after trying for 12 months to keep the negotiations secret – admitted in June this year that it IS in talks with the National Museum of Wales with a view of taking over the Turner House Art Gallery in Plymouth Road.
The council has said that – subject to agreement being reached – it plans to convert Turner House into “a new multi-purpose cultural venue” to promote the culture and heritage of the area – although quite how it proposes to raise the money to do this has yet to be explained.
The projected acquisition of Turner House from the National Museum of Wales has been discussed in 3 meetings of the Board of Trustees of the National Museum .
The quarterly meetings of the Trustees are supposed to be open to the public – but the trustees had banned members of the public from attending the relevant parts of any meeting at which Turner House was discussed.
The public ban is all the more surprising because the Treasurer of the National Museum of Wales is Laurie Pavelin, the chair of Penarth Lifeboat Station – who sometimes takes the chair at the meetings of the board of Trustees
For more than a year the National Museum had also failed to publish any minutes of its quarterly meetings of its Board of Trustees – as it is required by law to do.
When – under the pressure of a Freedom of Information Act request – the National Museum eventually DID get around to publishing five sets of the delayed minutes this month, details of the relevant discussions regarding Turner House over the 18 months had been filleted from the documents and removed.
The National Museum of Wales (which comes under the Welsh Labour Government) is has now apologised for the delay in publishing this year’s and last year’s minutes.
However the Museum says “The minutes that include statements relating to Turner House Gallery in Penarth are 28 September 2017, 14 December 2017 and 15 March 2018. On all three occasions it is noted that the matter was discussed in the Closed Session where confidential matters are considered.”
There is however considerable legal; doubt whether the National Museum has any right to regard such matters as “confidential” – because Turner House and its paintings were bequeathed to the people of Penarth in the will of the Penarth philanthropist James Pyke Thompson.
There is also some doubt as to who actually holds the title to Turner House itself – as there are no documents filed in the Land Registry.The property did originally belong to the now defunct Penarth Urban District Council – but, on terms which are unclear, entrusted the building and its millions of pounds worth of Turner paintings to the National Museum to be run as a subsidiary art gallery.
The nominal landlord of Turner House – the National Museum of Wales – has however been renting-out the building to the existing tenants – the photographic “charity” Ffotogallery . This organisation is to move out of Turner House to new premises in the centre of Cardiff in July next year.
It was on March 1st 2017 that PDN first revealed that Penarth Town Council had entered into secret discussions with the National Museum of Wales with a view to acquiring Turner House .See http://tinyurl.com/ya2qlogx