October 13, 2009 / 12:47 PM / 10 years ago

Bailed-out British bank RBS to open up art vault

* RBS to open up 2,200 piece art collection

* Includes pieces by leading British artists

LONDON, Oct 13 (Reuters Life!) - Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) plans to widen access to its private art collection as part of efforts to rebuild its image and regain public trust after the British government rescued it from collapse.

The part-nationalised lender, whose previous management was accused of being opaque and remote, now expects to display key pieces from a wide-ranging 2,200-piece collection that includes works by British artists David Hockney and L.S. Lowry.

The bank said on Tuesday that the plan to provide wider access to its collection — previously displayed largely in its own buildings — was part of a broader effort to showcase major changes at the bank.

“Over recent months we have been actively engaged in discussions with external organisations to widen public access to the bank’s art collection,” a spokeswoman said.

“We had the collection assessed and categorised in the spring and have already begun the process of agreeing which pieces are of public interest.”

RBS has been negotiating with institutions including the National Galleries of Scotland over options for its museum-quality pieces, while others could be displayed through community-level art projects and other initiatives.

“We remain open minded on the best and most appropriate way to make the collection more accessible,” the spokeswoman said.

The collection stretches from popular Scottish artist Jack Vettriano to William McTaggart, a 19th Century Scottish painter famous for his land and seascapes. Part of it was displayed at the Lowry Centre in Salford, northern England, in 2003, two years after a larger show in Edinburgh.

Disgraced former chief executive Fred Goodwin is said to have favoured colourful pieces by contemporary Scottish painter Glen Scouller, whose piece “Afternoon Shadows”, used to hang in Goodwin’s Edinburgh office.

RBS is 70 percent owned by the British government.

Reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques, editing by Paul Casciato

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