An MSP has expressed his concern that “the crown jewel” of one of Europe's great art collections is being loaned out with no “tangible social and economic benefit” to the people of Glasgow.

It comes after The Herald revealed that Salvador Dalí's Christ of St John of The Cross is to leave Glasgow on loan later this year, marking the fourth time the painting has left the city since 2010.

Valued at more than £60 million, Dalí's masterpiece is regarded as one of Scotland’s most treasured paintings and among the greatest work of art in Glasgow’s civic collection.

Featuring a dramatic depiction of the crucified Christ - but with no thorns, nails or wounds - the painting was inspired by a drawing Dalí was shown by 16th-century Carmelite priest John of the Cross, which is preserved in the Convent of the Incarnation in Avila in central Spain.

The painting proves a major draw for the hundreds of thousands who visit Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum each year, helping make it one of Scotland's most popular free attractions.

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The five-month loan, from November to the end of April 2024, will see Dalí's masterpiece ‘return home’ to The Dalí Theatre and Museum in Dalí’s home town of Figueres, in Catalonia, Spain.

It is the first time the painting will displayed in Dalí’s home town in over seven decades since 1952, when it was purchased by the City of Glasgow for the sum of £8,200.

The painting was originally scheduled to arrive at the museum in Figueres - where Dalí himself is buried in an unmarked crypt - in 2020 but was rescheduled due to the Covid pandemic. 

It will form the centrepiece of a huge new temporary exhibition, which is being billed as the largest the Surrealist museum has hosted since it opened its doors to the public back in 1974.

The forthcoming loan comes after the painting left Glasgow for a five-month period between July and December last year to go on display alongside El Greco’s Christ on the Cross at The Auckland Project in County Durham.

The Herald: Dalí next to his paintingDalí next to his painting (Image: Getty)

The painting was also absent from Kelvingrove from September 2017 to the summer of 2018, having featured in a Dalí/Duchamp exhibition in London's Royal Academy of Arts before the exhibition travelled to The Dalí Museum in St Petersburg, Florida. 

It was also loaned by Glasgow Museums in 2010, when it spent six months on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta at an exhibition on the surrealist artist.

Glasgow MSP Paul Sweeney expressed his concern that the painting is being loaned out "with no reciprocation".

He told The Herald: “While it may be the case that art exchanges between museums are important and commonplace, it is concerning that Glasgow Museums seem to be loaning out the crown jewel of its Kelvingrove art collection with no reciprocation nor any tangible social and economic benefit to the people of Glasgow. 

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"With Glasgow Life primed to cut curatorial staff and reevaluate its entire art collection due to Scottish Government imposed budget cuts, I am worried that Dali's iconic Christ of Saint John of the Cross and other famous artworks could be sold off to the highest bidder. That would be a disaster for Glasgow and one that should be avoided at all costs. 

"Glasgow needs a long-term plan for its cultural assets, and consideration should be given to whether more central government funding could be allocated in the way it is for national museums in Edinburgh. That would be a fair way of dealing with the shortfall and one that would see Glasgow's world class museums given parity with those in Edinburgh."

Councillor Philip Braat, whose ward covers Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, said he would prefer Dalí’s painting remain in Glasgow, but conceded that there could be advantages to be had in the forthcoming loan.

He told The Herald: “I would prefer this world famous masterpiece to remain in Glasgow, so that our citizens and visitors can see it in our home city, and if it must go that it does not stay away too long. 

“However, I do understand that loans can be an important mechanism in the arts world, which can lead to reciprocal exchanges and enhances the reputation of a museum’s credentials. 

“Further, if by dint of this loan, the Christ of Saint John on the Cross becomes an unofficial ambassador for Glasgow’s art and cultural scene that draws tourists to Glasgow, that surely must be a good thing.”