A PAINTING by Dublin-born Francis Bacon may be sold at auction to help the finances of Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire.
The council has already been forced to close two museums, with one more scheduled to close its doors next year.
The sale of the Bacon painting could raise up to £60million and help shore up council funds.
The painting, entitled Figure Study II, is kept in storage in Huddersfield Art Gallery’s vaults as nowhere locally is secure enough to exhibit such a valuable painting.
Figure Study II is described as “a screaming mouth and the eyeless face of a sub-human creature”.
Because of the great value of the painting, it is expensive to insure, and several councillors believe it is pointless to keep such a valuable work of art in storage while the council is so cash-strapped.
The 1940s Bacon painting came to be in the possession of the council through a gift from the Contemporary Art Society, which presented it to Batley’s Bagshaw Museum more than 60 years ago.
But selling the work of art may not be straightforward.
Andrew Cooper, leader of the Green Party in Huddersfield confirmed to The Irish Post that the legal position is unclear.
“There may well be a restrictive covenant preventing us from selling the painting — attached to its gift status from the Contemporary Art Society. We currently have experts looking into the situation.”
Mr Cooper said he was sorry that the situation had arisen, but that it was unavoidable.
“We’re being starved locally of funds by the UK Government, so desperation is driving us to this point.
"We would love to keep a Francis Bacon painting, but we badly need funds right across the board — from adult care services to keeping our libraries going.”
The Kirklees Council is made up of a broad range of political outlook, but it seems there is some agreement over selling the painting.
“There is a broad consensus that we should at least find out what the position is.
"Nobody is running around calling us Philistines for suggesting this move; I think all councillors realise the dire situation we’re in, and are happy to clarify the situation,” Mr Cooper told The Irish Post.
Francis Bacon was born in the heart of Dublin.
The family moved variously between Dublin, London, Co. Kildare and Co. Laois.
Since Bacon’s death in 1992 in Spain, his reputation and value of his paintings have grown steadily.
In 2013 his Three Studies of Lucian Freud set a world record as the most expensive piece of art sold at auction: $142.4million.
This was subsequently topped in 2015 by a Picasso painting.