One of L.S Lowry’s finest works is now set to stay in Manchester for good.
The return of the iconic painting “Going to the Match” received a standing ovation at the Lowry gallery this morning, from media, gallery staff and the Mayor of Salford, Paul Dennett.
There were lots of nerves from the gallery staff who were involved in a tense bidding process at Christies in London.
There were concerns that the painting could have been purchased and put into a private collection.
We spoke to Lowry Director of Visual Art Michael Simpson who talked us through the nerves at the auction.
He said: “The thing about the painting going to auction is you have no idea what’a going to happen.
“There’s always a danger someone might sweep in under your feet and put it in a private collection, and it could end up on someone’s living room wall.
“It came down to us and another bidder via telephone – so we couldn’t quite tell what was going on.
“There were a lot of nerves going into it. We didn’t know if we had the budget but fortunately it came in just under what we planned for.”
Michael said there was a huge sense of jubilation and shock as the auction closed and the auctioneers gavel came down.
It had been a lengthy mission to get the pieces together to make sure the painting came home to The Lowry.
Michael explained: “For six months we’ve been working hard to get a case together to get somebody to help us buy this picture.
“To make the case that the picture needed to stay in a public collection for free.
“This picture has a particular quality to it.
“For 22 years we’ve had it on loan and it’s so well loved – particularly by football fans. Manchester United’s ground is just around the corner, and we see almost every home match home and away fans having a drink downstairs, and then coming up stairs to see the painting as part of their match day ritual.
“It’s easily the most popular picture we have on display.”
This hugely important and much-loved work of art has been on public display in The Lowry’s galleries since it opened in 2000, on loan from the Professional Footballers’ Association.
Following their decision to sell Going to the Match, there were no guarantees that any future owners would share the commitment to keeping the work on public view and free to access.
However, The Lowry’s successful bid at Christie’s means the artwork has been secured for the city of Salford’s LS Lowry collection, and it will now be rehung at The Lowry, where it will be free to view.
Michael spoke about the cultural significance of the artwork to the city, and the people of Manchester.
He said: “It means a lot for a number of reasons.
“Manchester is without doubt one of the greatest sporting cities on planet earth.
“This, which I would say is one of the most iconic sporting paintings should stay in Manchester.
“L.S Lowry lived his life in Salford, he is somebody who is closely associated with this area.
“This is probably his finest picture. It depicts Bolton Wanderers, so we really wanted to it to stay within Greater Manchester.
“It’s set to tour later this year around venues in Greater Manchester. Manchester is the best place for it to stay.”