High Court bid launches to stop Riesco art sell-off by Croydon Council
Councillors are to launch a High Court bid to stop the sale of the Riesco collection of Chinese artworks.
Croydon's Labour group are appealing to raise the £20,000 it estimates is needed to take to push for a judicial review of council plans to sell off 24 most valuable items of the collection.
The council expects to the pieces, including antique porcelain plates, bottles and vases, to fetch between £9m and £14.2m at auction in Hong King next month.
Labour councillors have raised £10,000 in donations but know time is of the essence if they are the block the sale on November 27.
Timothy Godfrey, Labour's culture spokesman, said: "This is an exciting development. This judicial review may give Croydon a second chance to do the right thing as Raymond Riesco wanted.
"It is time to rebuild our cultural and arts offerings and this may be the turning point."
The auction has been repeatedly criticised by cultural organisations - including the Museums Association, Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund - which have accused the "unethical" council of undermining trust in museums.
Some of the pieces on display in the Museum of Croydon's Riesco Gallery
This month the council resigned in protest as it faced expulsion from the Museums Association over the sale.
It insists the money, which will be used to refurbish Fairfield Halls, is for Croydon's greater good.
The 230-piece collection encompasses ninth-century tomb models and valuable Ming china, which were bought by the council upon the death of local collector Raymond Riesco in 1964.
The items up for sale are predominantly from the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.
The council initially purchased 650 items but sold 180 of them in 1970 and a further 112 in 1984. Thirty-nine were stolen and this month it emerged the council had lost 89 pieces and had no record of their whereabouts.
Anyone wishing to donate money to the judicial review bid can visit www.riesco.org.uk or contact Coun Timothy Godfrey on Timothy@Godfrey.net or 020 7100 9157
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