RTÉ’s sale of Irish artworks


Sir, – I note that “RTÉ to sell five piece of artworks at public auctions next month” (News, October 5th). Two of the artworks are by Louis le Brocquy and are RTÉ-commissioned canvases (1966 and 2000, the significance of the dates needs no elaboration). The other works are by the Ulster-Scot artist William Scott; the north-south artist George Campbell; and Tony O’Malley. The selection is to be flogged at Sotheby’s salesrooms, presumably in London. Post-imperial cultural cringe survives apparently in, of all places, Montrose.

Who in RTÉ made this decision? Someone or some body of a presumably executive type and title did so. On what authority and by what writ, including the statutory footing? It wouldn’t have happened 50 or indeed 20 years ago. The very works to be flogged are evidence of that.

This to me is heritage, heritage sent to market, reduced in a way to bloodlines in a stallion sales ring.

RTÉ is a statutory national institution. Its management makes much of this in external publicity and the internal corporate culture it propagates among staff.

Taking this position seriously – as was the case for decades – the organisation is a cultural repository acting in trust on behalf of all Ireland.

Key aspects of this pursuit have been there for decades: the home it has provided for classical, serious music in Ireland (the orchestras); the stage it has been for radio drama; the repository it has been for traditional music and culture and national lore (the music collectors and the sound archive); the role it has played in language policy; and the forum it has provided for national debate and its record in news and current affairs coverage and its archives.

It has also been a sponsor of the visual arts.

Its very headquarters is a hymn to modernism in architecture, originating in Michael Scott’s designs.

RTÉ supporting the arts?

This sale, a raid on the national collection, should be stopped. – Yours, etc,



Kapiti Coast,

New Zealand.