Balliol JCR has received £38,000 from the sale of ten pictures. The paintings, mostly bought in the 1950s, were part of the permanent collection of the Balliol JCR Picture Fund, which loans out paintings for students to hang in their rooms for a 50 pound deposit each year.
Liam Shaw and Sean Whitton, who are in charge of the Picture Fund, decided to have the pictures valued. Whitton commented, “Liam and I decided to catalogue the collection and get it valued, originally on the grounds that the JCR was paying art insurance for a value of around £13,000 from a valuation performed about a decade ago which we thought was probably wrong. We were surprised to learn how valuable the paintings actually are.”
They resolved to sell the paintings at an auction. They explained, “Given that most of the valuable paintings are not attractive to the eyes of the average contemporary Oxford student, and since we thought it irresponsible to keep loaning out such valuable paintings to students’ rooms, we decided to sell them off as a one-off sale.”
The actual sale of the paintings totalled a far greater sum than was expected. The most expensive painting was by the artist Lowndes and sold for £21,000, doubling the expected price.
Alex Bartram, the Balliol JCR President, told Cherwell, “There was and had been no demand for these pictures among students for a very long time, so they simply weren’t serving their purpose any longer, and indeed were at risk of further damage. The JCR just could not guarantee their safety, so from the point of view of posterity, it was important that we were no longer looking after paintings that were so valuable. I’m not suggesting the JCR can’t be trusted: simply that we were uncomfortable being the custodians of valuable pieces of art.”
Whitton added, “The JCR is going through a long process of deciding what to spend the rest of it on; there are numerous suggestions floating about, some serious, such as redecorating our studentrun bar, others not so serious, such as spending £38,000 on vodka.”
Alex Bartram stressed, “Although joking suggestions have been made, the JCR will think very carefully about how it spends the money, and almost certainly will not do so all at once.”