The Guardian launched a campaign to get the Royal Bank of Scotland, which was bailed out by British taxpayers, to disclose and display the extent of its art collection. The campaign has only made limited gains:
The Royal Bank of Scotland is to open one of the largest collections of British art in private hands to the public after it was accused of hiding its collection in its corporate offices and vaults.
RBS, which is 70% owned by the taxpayer, has revealed that it owns more than 2,200 pieces of British art, including work by LS Lowry, David Hockney, Patrick Caulfield and Sir William McTaggart, and rare 18th-century works by Johann Zoffany and Joshua Reynolds, displayed in its offices and branches.
Experts believe it is the largest corporate art collection in Britain, and worth millions of pounds, as it includes a significant group of postwar and contemporary British paintings and prints collected by the NatWest before the banks merged in 2000. […] The bank is still resisting pressure to disclose the value of its collection, which has dropped due to the recession, or publish a full list of work it owns. The bank also owns hundreds of lesser works of art, mainly prints, worth less than £500.
It said its advisers had said it has only about 10 pieces of “national museum quality”, including work by McTaggart, LS Lowry and Johann Zoffany, whose 1766 portrait of the banker Andrew Drummond is one of the most valuable the bank owns. It has another 40 of “historical importance”, a spokeswoman said.