A COMMUNITY GROUP in country NSW has managed to keep a renowned painting from being sold to a city art gallery thanks to help from Henry Davis York.
The law firm’s commercial dispute lawyers helped the Friends of the Hinton Collection and the Old Teachers’ College, Armidale, to intervene in Armidale Council’s plan to sell its half-share in Tom Robert’s painting “Mosman’s Bay” to the Art Gallery of NSW.
Moin & Associates Pty Ltdacted for Armidale Council and the Crown Solicitor for the NSW Attorney-General.
The Hinton Collection includes more than 1,000 artworks, which were given to the people of Armidale by Howard Hinton in the 1930s.
“Mosman’s Bay” is said to be one of the centrepieces of the collection, which the council said is valued at more than $3 million. The collection also includes “McMahon’s Point Ferry” (1890) by Arthur Streeton, “Christmas Bush” (1923) by Margaret Preston, “Apollo’s Vanguard” (1933) by Norman Lindsay and “The Beach” (1918) by Elioth Gruner.
Armidale Council sought to have the trust terms varied so they could sell the painting, using the proceeds to pay for $500,000 in council debts.
Under the sale agreement, the AGNSW would then have equal display time rights to the artwork, with the New England Regional Art Gallery and AGNSW swapping the painting every year.
However, Justice Young in the NSW Supreme Court case Armidale Dumaresq Council v Attorney-General said “there does not appear to be any covenant preventing an agreement between the trustee and the art gallery despite a lack of power in the trustee to sell the painting altogether or to make an application for sale under s 36A of the Conveyancing Act 1919.
“In other words, the painting is at risk of forever departing out of the Armidale area and forever being removed from the collection of the revivified teachers’ college.”
HDY acted for Friends of the Hinton Collection on a pro bono basis. They were granted leave to intervene in the application by Justice Young.
“An unusual feature of the case was the court’s willingness to accept that the friends’ views about the Hinton Trust should be heard,” said HDY lead partner Harland Koops.
“In reaching its conclusion, the Court had regard to the local nature of the charitable trust and the decision of the NSW Attorney-General, who was the defendant in the proceedings, not to take an active part.”