The 80,000 piece collection of porcelain, paintings and other cultural objects that formed the Wedgwood Collection at Stoke-on-Kent is in jeopardy of being broken up and sold piece by piece at Christie’s auction house. In order to offset part of the £134 million pension deficit owed to former employees of Waterford Wedgwood Plc, the High Court ordered in 2012 that the collection was capable of being sold off. This decision by Judge Purle, Re Wedgwood Museum Trust  EWHC 1974 (Ch), was noted by Harry Martin in the April 2013 edition of Art Antiquity and Law.
Since that decision, the Art Fund has managed to secure a price of £15.75 million to purchase the entire collection (a fraction of its actual value). An arrangement has been made for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London to take responsibility for the collection, which would then be kept at Stoke-on-Kent as part of a long-term loan. The Art Fund has thus far managed to raise a substantial part of this amount – just over £13 million – from the Heritage Lottery Fund, private grants, various trusts and the Wedgwood family itself, but the £2.74 million remainder must still be raised through public donations before 30 November 2014 in order to prevent the sale at Christie’s.
While the 2012 High Court judgment came as a surprise to many in the cultural sector, the current arrangement is one that may provide a suitable solution for all parties involved. In his decision, Judge Purle had made reference to the difficult choice between cultural heritage on the one hand and the rights of employees to their pensions on the other. He ultimately chose the latter. Now, with help from various funding bodies and individuals from across the UK, it appears that a balance may in fact be achieved.
More information on the current situation, as well as details on donating to this cause, can be found here.