Menace sur les collections Wedgwood

Publié le : 17/04/2012

Article du Guardian du 19 décembre 2011

Wedgwood Museum faces selloff to pay £134m pension debt after court ruling 

Museum collection can now be sold to meet deficit of Wedgwood Potteries, even though the two separated half a century ago 
    Dalya Alberge, Monday 19 December 2011 20.25 GMT 

Britain is set to lose a world-renowned museum following a high court ruling which could force it to sell its collection to pay off a £134m pension deficit. 
The Wedgwood Museum in Stoke-on-Trent faces being forced to sell its historic collection of china, masterpieces by Stubbs, Romney and Reynolds, and an archive linked to the nation's social and industrial history. 
Judges in Birmingham ruled that the pottery collection owned by the museum was an asset of Waterford Wedgwood Potteries, which went bust in 2009. The collection can now be sold to pay off creditors, the largest of which is the Pension Protection Fund. 
The decision has shocked the art world because it could prove to be a test case for other public collections. 
Treasures likely to spark feverish bidding include two rare Portland vases, each valued at about £1m, and the archive of Josiah Wedgwood, the company's 18th-century founder. 
The ruling has come as an unintended consequence of safeguards introduced to protect employee pensions after the Robert Maxwell scandal in the early 1990s. The legislation means any company linked to a pension scheme – in this case the museum – can be held responsible for pension shortfalls. 
Though the museum had not been connected to the company for almost 50 years, five of their employees were part of the Pottery Group Pension Plan's 7,000-smember scheme. Because those five became employees of the Wedgwood Museum seven years ago, the court has ruled that the administrators of the museum are now liable for the £134m black hole in the pension fund. 
Simon Wedgwood, one of Josiah's descendents, was dismayed by the ruling. He said: "The Wedgwood Museum … was specifically set up by a family well known for its altruism, and as they realised the cultural and artistic value of the heritage. 
"It is shocking that a change in law and method of paying the museum staff in recent years should have such appalling and unintended results for a publicly available collection of national, if not international importance." 
Gillian Wolfe of the Dulwich Picture Gallery condemned the judgment as "deeply saddening". 
A spokesman for the administrators of the Wedgwood Museum Trust Limited said that it was "regrettable" that the museum did not take "appropriate action to separate the collection itself from the museum's liabilities to the pension plan". 
He added: "This deficit became the museum's responsibility following the earlier insolvencies of the other Wedgwood group companies, leaving the pension trustees with no option but to claim this amount from the museum as required by legislation."