WHERE’S THE MONEY COMING FROM? Pembroke fellows in pickle over pricey Dearlove portrait
Bryan Organ, the commissioned artist, is well-known for his portrait of Princess Diana.
A college meeting was “taken aback” after “failures of process” in commissioning an expensive portrait for outgoing Master and former head of MI6 Richard Dearlove.
Information obtained under Freedom of Information shows that the Curator’s Committee commissioned the expensive portrait by a prestigious artist without obtaining approval from college.
Adding fuel to the proverbial fire, the committee failed to figure out where the money was going to come from – or even where the portrait was to be hung.
Their final error was to overestimate the stature of former spy chief Richard Dearlove by commissioning the project in oils, which is normally only done for those who’ve previously been Vice Chancellor.
Members also expressed concerns about the cost of the portrait, the exact figure of which is censored in the minutes for being “commercially sensitive”. The chosen artist is Bryan Organ, known for his portrait of Princess Diana, among other high-profile figures.
Some members expressed concern that “spending money on an oil painting was not fulfilling [their] charitable aims when that money could be spent on say studentships”. Nevertheless, members thought that a recent donor might be willing to give “permission” for his money to be spent on this project. Some thought that it would be prudent to set a “lower sum” as a limit for future portraits.
In the initial version of the minutes, a member appears to criticise Dearlove: “A member of the Society felt that it was wrong that the sitter should have a say in who would paint their portrait adding that this was not normal practice.”
These were amended, though, to read: “It was unusual for a sitter single-handedly to choose their portraitist for a portrait commissioned by an institution.” Pembroke assures The Tab that this comment was made as a point of principle and that Dearlove did not “single-handedly” choose his portraitist.
In a subsequent meeting in December, the Curator’s Committee “recognised that there were failures of process in the way the current commission had occurred, and wishes to express its regret for that to the College Meeting”.
Nevertheless, it was decided that the commission with Bryan Organ should go ahead to avoid being “invidious” – although three rather more stubborn members voted against this.
If you’d like to see information obtained by The Tab under the FOI Act, you can email [email protected]