German artist Kurt Schwitters’s last remaining Merz Barn may be moved to China if the owners of the site cannot raise enough funds to maintain it, Frances Perraudin of The Guardian reports. Located in Langdale, Cumbria, in northwest England, the building served as a refuge for Schwitters when he fled from the Nazis in 1940. The artist made a collage of stone, cement, and found objects on the walls of the structure before he died in 1948. The materials were moved to the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle in the 1960s, and the building has since been regarded as a UK cultural heritage site.
The Littoral Arts Trust, which owns the property, has been committed to maintaining the site. However, the Arts Council England has rejected its last five applications for funding in support of its upkeep. On Sunday, Ian Hunter, who runs the small charity with Celia Larner, said that they have run out of options. The trust plans to put the barn up for sale, and it is expected to net around $475,000.
Before Hunter and Larner listed the building on the open market, they said the trust was approached by a wealthy Chinese art collector who made an offer on the barn and expressed an interest in relocating it to Shenzhen, China, to join his collection.
“This is absolutely bonkers, given the public arts funding already invested in the project,” Hunter told The Guardian. “The ‘good causes’ lottery ticket purchasers, and the taxpayer have the right to ask who at the Arts Council is behind these incompetent decisions, and why?”
While the Arts Council England has allocated funding in support of the barn in the past, an ACE spokesperson said that the council’s role “does not include protection and restoration of cultural heritagethis is the responsibility of other bodies.” The representative added that the previous funding awarded to Littoral Arts was for a contemporary program that it held for a number of years.