Beaverbrook

If any of you have ever visited Fredericton, NB you might be familiar with the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Located across the street from the provincial legislature it is a small gallery of international repute. Over the past couple of years a dispute has arisen between the gallery and the heirs of the estate of Lord Beaverbrook – Sir Max Aitken. If you have spent any time in NB you are probably familar with the name, as much of the province is named after him. From buildings to parks, rinks and scholarships, you name it, there is a good chance it is adorned with the name Beaverbrook or Aitken. Among a great many things, he served in the cabinet of Winston Churchill during WWII and even has an IMDB entry, no small feat for someone born in 1879.

This sometimes nasty, dispute arises out of several paintings at the gallery, two of the more notable include the Fountain of Indolence by Joseph Turner and Hotel Bedroom by Lucian Freud. In short form, the heirs of the estate of Lord Beaverbrook claim he loaned the paintings to the gallery in 1959, while the gallery claims that the paintings were donated to the gallery as a gift. It seems that the heirs now wish to reclaim the paintings and auction some of them off to raise funds to continue renovations on Cherkley Court, Lord Beaverbrook’s country estate in England.

The two sides agreed to arbitration which is currently taking place on the UNB campus in Fredericton (where many of the buildings on campus are named after Lord Beaverbrook). The arbitration is being presided over by retired Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory. A unique feature of this arbitration is that it is open to the public. Primary materials are not yet available however the estate has posted their opening arguments here. There is extensive media coverage and CBC gives a good summary and chronology of the dispute. The Canadian Archivists Blog has even taken notice of this dispute as a cautionary tale.

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