HALIFAX could provide exhibition space for thousands of paintings, drawings and sculptures by the likes of Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon, David Hockney and even Damien Hirst.
It would be the largest collection of its kind in the country and would provide a unique educational resource as well as creating a huge tourist attraction.
The group of artists behind this exciting proposal have persuaded Culture Minister Ed Vaizey to visit Shaw Lodge Mills to discuss the idea which they say could save his department hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The building which they believe is ripe for converting into a national art store and gallery is an enormous weaving shed, which is the length of three football pitches.
It is probably one of the largest buildings of its type and there is ample parking and ancilliary accommodation.
The vision behind the scheme comes from tutors at the Art Works - a thriving Halifax art school.
Co-ordinator John Ross said : “This is a win-win idea - the Arts Council will benefit from people having full access to the collection in a fantastic space; Halifax will benefit from a much needed shot in the arm.”
“The next step is to show the Minister what a wonderful site this is. I am confident he will be nothing but impressed .”
Halifax Labour MP Linda Riordan, who has her constituency office at Shaw Lodge, said: “The fact that the Minister has agreed to come to Halifax shows how seriously he is taking this idea. Housing the Art Collection in the town will bring so many economic, cultural and social benefits. “This visionary idea deserves to be successful and I am confident that when the bidding process is complete Halifax will get to house some, if not all, of the collection.”
Oliver Quarmby, director of St James Securities, which owns Shaw Lodge Mills, said housing such a major collection there would propel the complex into a different league. “We can provide all the space they need under one roof and save the Arts Council money in the process.”
According to the Art Works, the magnificent industrial proportions of the weaving shed easily match those of the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern.
*The Arts Council of England is facing a 15 per cent funding cut and has asked the House of Commons’s Select Committee for Culture to either sell or possibly amalgamate it’s collection with the Government Art Collection.
The Arts Council owns 7,500 works gathered since its inception in 1946 which cost £325,000 a year to store in four separate locations, including the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, at Wakefield.
At any one time, half of the collection is out on loan and Halifax is perfectly situated for road and rail distribution.
The Great Weaving Shed was built in 1862 and covers an area of 5,349 square metres.