Campaigners have dropped attempts to legally challenge Croydon Council’s part sale of the valuable Chinese Riesco collection, taking place this month.
Unable to raise the £20,000 required to fund the case, campaigners withdrew their application for a judicial review on Monday, their last resort to stop the sale.
The items of the Riesco collection, considered to be some of London’s finest antiques, will be auctioned off in Hong Kong on November 27. The sale is expected to raise millions, and will partially fund the Council’s £27 million refurbishment plan for Fairfield Halls.
Charlotte Davis, chair of the South Croydon Community Association and signatory of the application for the judicial review said:
“It was always a race against time and a battle between unequal parts. We made a necessary risk assessment, considering the personal liability of the people passionately involved that have jobs and families to think of.”
She adds: “Many fear the consequences of stepping forward. But this is just one battle in a long war to restore arts and culture in Croydon.”
The legal case would have focused on leaked documents which demonstrate that Croydon Council knowingly infringed legal restrictions by not reinvesting the money raised back into Riesco Gallery.
The breach of policy and the lack of public consultation was heavily criticised by the Museum Association, from which the Council resigned in October after being faced with disciplinary action.
Mark Taylor, director of the Museum Association, said: “This is a principal case with a clear message; selling off a museum’s collection without a clear process is a breach of ethical code and unacceptable.”
He added: “Croydon Council has not consulted the public, the family of Raymond Riesco or made an honest attempt to raise the money for the Fairfield Halls’ refurbishment by alternative means.”
Should the sale go through, The Museum Association have said they will bar the Council from future membership and have encouraged the Art’s Council to revoke Croydon’s status as an accredited museum.
The loss of the Art’s Council accreditation would have serious implications for arts funding and grant applications made by the Borough in the future.
A Council spokesperson said: “We already resigned from the Museums Association after it decided the council should face disciplinary action, before any hearing had taken place. We have never received funding from the Museum Association and no longer being a member will not make any difference to the council being able to continue providing an excellent museum service.”