The fight to keep Lowry’s Going to the Match in public view



Famous for his paintings of the matchstalk men and matchstalk animals that populate his industrial landscapes inspired by the north-west of England, LS Lowry disliked being called an artist, preferring instead to describe himself as “a man who paints”. Upon being labelled “a naive Sunday painter” by one particularly condescending art critic, he countered by pointing out that he was “a Sunday painter who paints every day of the week”. Since his death in 1976, Lowry’s paintings and drawings have sold for numbers heading into the millions and arguably his most famous, Going to the Match, is owned by the PFA and is going on sale at Christie’s auction house next month. It is expected to fetch up to £8m, which at the time of writing is still a lot of money despite the best attempts of the Tories to flatline our economy.

Currently on display at the magnificent Lowry museum in Salford, Going to the Match depicts a scene outside and inside Burnden Park, the former ground of Bolton Wanderers, not far from his home in Pendlebury. But with the gallery and local council unable to afford it and the PFA obliged to sell the painting they paid £1.9m for in 1999 in order to raise funds for their charitable arm, the mayor of Salford has appealed to wealthy football players and clubs in the area to consider buying it to prevent the “huge tragedy and scandal” of it becoming part of a private collection and disappearing from public view.

“My fear is a work that has been publicly available at the Lowry for 22 years, that champions the work of one of our great artists, is potentially going to be lost from public view and public access,” sighed Paul Dennett. “I’d like to make a personal plea for the footballing community here to look at retaining this painting for the people of Greater Manchester. There’s a lot of money in that community, so finding £8m-plus wouldn’t be too difficult.” While there is no suggestion Dennett had any specific members of said community in mind, The Fiver notes with interest that in 2016, a certain Manchester City owner, who is never averse to a bit of PR, bought an original Lowry for manager Manuel Pellegrini as a parting gift. Meanwhile at Old Trafford, the Glazers might be tempted to do the decent thing, seeing as keeping Going to the Match in the public spotlight would cost them less than a third of what they spaffed on shoving Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Ralf Rangnick out of it.

“We’d like to have a conversation with the buyer [of Going To The Match] about the responsibility that comes with owning such a work,” said Julia Fawcett, chief suit of the Lowry museum and gallery. “This isn’t just any painting. We have school trips, children coming to study the work. It’s clearly linked to the social history of our city. It’s seen not just by traditional art lovers; the painting draws in the ordinary people it represents. We have coachloads of football fans coming in ahead of a match.” The sight of supporters stopping off to see the painting while literally going to the match is one that would almost certainly have tickled Lowry.


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Marta Lopez

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