Artwatch UK


ArtWatch UK:

Director: Michael Daley

Telephone/Fax: (44) (0)208 216 3492



ArtWatch UK campaigns to protect the integrity of works of art and architecture from injurious physical treatments and hazardous, exploitative or demeaning actions. To these ends, it welcomes direct debate with restoration/conservation practitioners and seeks access to records of restoration or conservation treatments in all publicly or charitably supported museums, galleries and buildings. It works through its Journal and elsewhere to establish an aesthetically informed and properly critical restoration literature and, where appropriate, to counter partisan or propagandistic accounts in the specialist press and in the public media.


“I need hardly tell you that I have much sympathy for the aims of ArtWatch”
Sir Ernst Gombrich in a letter (21 July 1995) to the director of ArtWatch UK.

A splendid magazine…that reports on restoration blunders all over the world"
– Christopher Booker,
The Sunday Telegraph 20 October 2002

‘On being told of the latest controversy, Libby Sheldon, a leading conservator who is now paint materials historian at University College London, applauded ArtWatch’s work in raising concerns. “It’s good that they (institutions) are being challenged,” she said. “It makes them take more care. Organisations like Artwatch, irritating though they are to institutions, are a good watchdog.”’
– News report, The Times, London, 15 October 2003

“London’s Royal National Theatre building has often been attacked – not least by the Prince of Wales – for its boxy, grey appearance. Now an art magazine may have worked out what inspired its architect. German pill boxes. The latest issue of ArtWatch magazine carries a detailed analysis which argues – pretty convincingly – that the late Sir Denys Lasdun designed the theatre along the lines of German gun emplacements and bombproof U-boat pens in the Second World War…”
The Evening Standard, Londoner’s Diary, 14 October 2008

“Our shiny Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg takes a spanking in the latest Journal of ArtWatch, an international pressure group for better standards of art conservation…”
Quentin Letts, The Daily Mail, 29 May 2010


ArtWatch UK was founded in 1995 as a members’ organisation by its present director, Michael Daley who had previously served as the London manager of ArtWatch International, which was founded in 1992 in New York by (the late) James Beck, Professor of Renaissance Art history, Columbia University. See below and: For the origins of ArtWatch International (which incorporated the New York based International Art Preservation Society) see Art Restoration ~ The Culture, The Business, and The Scandal, by James Beck and Michael Daley, London, 1993 and 1994 (paperback). A further and expanded English edition was published in New York, 1996. Art Restoration was published in Italian (“Restauri ~ Capolavori & Affari”, Florence, 1993) and in Spanish (“La restauración de obras de arte ~ Negocio, cultura, controversia y escándalo”, Barcelona, 1997). It was published in French as “ART ET RESTAURATION ~ ENJEUX, IMPOSTURES ET RAVAGES”, Lyon, 1998 and as “L’ART DÉFIGURÉ ~ CRITIQUE DES RESTAURATIONS CONTEMPORAINES”, Lyon, 2006.

James Beck

Professor Beck served as President of ArtWatch International until his death on 26 May 2007. For essays written in his honour and a list of his published works, see “Watching Art: Writings in Honor of James Beck”, (eds. Dr Lynn Catterson and Professor Mark Zucker), Montelupino, Italy, 2006.

For obituaries, see the commemorative issues of the ArtWatch UK Journal (No. 22 Autumn 2007), and Nuances (No. 38-39 2007), the Journal of ARIPA (Association Internationale pour le Respect de l’Intégrité du Patrimoine Artistique).See also: The Times, May 29th May 2007; The Guardian, June 2nd 2007; The Daily Telegraph, May 30th 2007; The New York Times, May 29th 2007; andThe Independent, 8th June 2007

In January 2002, with his class at Columbia University, James Beck (seen, above, in his office at Columbia University) reconsidered the purpose of ArtWatch in the aftermath of the Islamic terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center and four in-flight civilian airliners.

“…I must confess that my first thoughts were to throw my hands out and beat my chest like Giotto’s Despair from the Scrovegni Chapel – one of his brilliant inventions among the series of Virtues and Vices – ready to put aside issues of the preservation of art as irrelevant to the other "bigger" threats. But I thought of those calm giants, the Buddhas of Afghanistan which were brutalized just a few months ago… and the very images of Giotto which in their own way are being brutalized. And I realized that our, meaning mankind’s, finest efforts need protection, and they need our protection. The battle is at the essence of civilization and our little organization is practically the only organized effort to call attention to the destruction from neglect, misguided practice, and from over-eager operatives and authorities who are seeking fame and fortune at the expense of art. Hence our efforts are valuable, actually more essential than ever in the new climate. And once again we can turn to Giotto, to his Hope, to give us strength to confront the future.”

An annual James Beck Memorial lecture is held, alternately, in London and New York. On these occasions, a prize – The Frank Mason Prize – is awarded for exemplary work in the protection of art and heritage.

Michael Daley

Michael Daley is an artist and illustrator who trained from 1960 to 1968 in fine art (principally sculpture and printmaking) at Hull College of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. Between 1967 and 1982 he taught at the Brighton School of Art, the City and Guilds of London School of Art, and the Kingston Polytechnic Art School. Since 1982 he has worked primarily as an illustrator for newspapers, magazines and book publishers, including:

The Financial Times, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Independent (for which he received a British Press award in 1987), The Independent on Sunday, The Times Educational Supplements, The Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, The Listener, New Society, Early Music, The Spectator, Standpoint Magazine, The Art Review, The Jackdaw; Methuen Books, Viking Kestrel, Chatto and Windus, Basil Blackwell, Barrie and Jenkins, Plumbago Books (- see, below, the cover drawing for “The Way We Listen Now”, by Bayan Northcott, 2009), and the advertising agencies, Saatchi and Saatchi, B.M.P., and, W.C.R.S.

Daley’s drawings were shown in The Illustrators ~ British Art of Illustration 1780-1992 exhibition at the Chris Beetles Gallery, London, 1992 and in the show In Their Own Element ~ Six Fleet Street Artists, at the Grosvenor Gallery, London, in July 1995. A collection of his published portrait drawings were shown at the Abbott and Holder gallery, London, on 11-19 February 2011.

Daley has written and broadcast widely on art; art education; art restoration and conservation; and the repatriation of art. See:

“Left Turn”, Art and Artists, July and August issues 1974; “The Teach-ability of Drawing”, Arts Review, May 1978; “A Post-Modernist Programme”, Art Monthly, No. 23; “The Debilitation of the British Art School”, Art Monthly, No. 27, (reprinted in Tract No. 28, a symposium on the crisis in the visual arts); “Sculptural Materialism”, Art Monthly No. 39; “Who gets what awards?” – a correspondence which ran from November 1981 to November 1982 on ideological bias and (perceived) nepotism in the Arts Council’s awards schemes; “Michelangelo: Found or Lost?”, The Independent on Sunday, 25 March 1990; “Quella sporca Sistina”, Europeo, September 1990; “As Good as New?” The Times Educational Supplement, 18 January 1991; “Modern conservation techniques always involve element of risk ”, The Independent, 20 March 1991; “Dark Genius Brushed Off by Opal Fruits”, The Independent, 27 April 1991; “Daylight Forgery”, The Independent, 17 August 1991; “Sistine Restoration Remains Veiled in Mystery”, The Journal of Art, September 1991; “A Crime Against the Artist”, The Independent, 22 November 1991; “Restoration Drama”, The Times Educational Supplement, 17 April 1992; “Sistine Restoration”, The Times, letter, 5 June 1992; “Solvent Abuse”, The Spectator, 30 January 1993; “White Ties v. White Coats”, The London Review of Books, letter, 11 March 1993; “Double glazing”, The Spectator, letter, 20 March 1993; “A Restoration Tragedy”, The Times Higher Educational Supplement, 4 June 1993; “Artful Bodgers”, The Sunday Times, 6 June 1993; “The Varnished Truth”, Art Review, November 1993; “Clarity on questions of classic restoration”, The Times Higher Educational Supplement, letter, 6 May 1994; “No anatomical logic in Michelangelo’s defence”, The Independent, 29 September 1994; “How to Make a Michelangelo”, Art Review, October 1994; “Michelangelo’s other David”, The Spectator, letter, 15 October 1994; “Open Letter” [on the National Gallery’s restoration of Holbein’s “the Ambassadors”] Art Review, May 1995; “Solvent Misuse”, New Scientist, 12 August 1995; “Changes of detail in Vermeer’s work”, The Times, letter, 8 December 1995; “Art restoration”, The Times, letter, 16 March 1996; “Restoring Confidence”, Art Review, July/August 1996; “Is this a copy?”, Art Review, February 1996; “Academics and Armouries”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 6 April 1996; “What is good drawing?”, Art Review, May 1996; “Artful dodger”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 3 May 1996; “Is this a Copy?”, Art Review, February 1997; “Royal Academy Latest”, Art Review, March 1997; “Making the most of museums”, The Evening Standard, letter, 27 May 1997; “Is this really a Rubens?”, Art Review, July/August 1997; “Doubts about gallery’s Rubens”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 16 August 1997; “Michelangelo, the Vatican Frescoes”, Art Review, October 1997; “Alas poor Holbein”, Art Review, November 1997; “The National Gallery has cut its own throat”, The Evening Standard, letter, 3 December 1997; “Every picture tells a story”, The Evening Standard, letter, 1 June 1998; “Absurdity of increasing curators”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 17 August 1998; “The Unvarnished Truth (I)”, Art Review , September 1998; “Turner De-Mystified”, Art Review; October 1998; “The Unvarnished Truth (II)”, Art Review, November 1998; “The Unvarnished Truth (III)”, Art Review, December/January 1999; “The Unvarnished Truth (IV)”, Art Review, February 1999; “The Unvarnished Truth (V)”, Art Review, March 1999; “‘Restored’ Leonardo is not authentic”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 27 March 1999; “The Unvarnished Truth (VI)”, Art Review, April 1999; “The Unvarnished Truth (VII)”, Art Review, May 1999; “The Supper’s Finished”, Art Review, July/August 1999; “Before Grateful Dead”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 17 August 1999; “The Lost Art of Picture Conservation”, Art Review, September 1999; “When Brightest is Not Necessarily Best”, Art Review, October 1999; “From Bad to Worse”, Art Review, November 1999; “Beware Restorers Bearing Chisels”, Art Review, December/January 2000; “’Virtual reality’ art”, The Independent, letter, 29 January 2000; “Pheidias Albion”, Art Review, February 2000; “Playing with the Elgin Marbles”, LM Magazine, February 2000; “Rubbed Out for Good”, Art Review, March 2000; “Cleaned Out”, Art Review, April 2000; “The Eclipse of Venus”, Art Review, May 2000; “The Back is Where It’s At”, Art Review, June 2000; “Cleaning problem”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 2 February 2001; “LA RESTAURATION EST UNE INTERPRÉTATION”, Beaux-Arts Magazine, letter, April 2001; “Stoppard’s dilemma”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 16 June 2001; “Avant-gardism and the rise of anti-art”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 23 June 2001; “Fear for masterpieces”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 13 July 2001; “Chalk and cheese”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 23 May 2002; “Artists deserve fair competitions”, The Evening Standard, letter, 21 August 2002;“Is this £49.5 million painting by Rubens?”, The Jackdaw, October 2002; “Up in flames”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 9 October 2002; “Our restoration tragedy”, The Sunday Telegraph, 2 March 2003; “Brancusi bungled”, The Art Newspaper, letter, July/August 2003; “Art attack”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 24 December 2003; “The Lost Art of Picture Conservation”, Relicvia No. 3 (6) 2004; “Is the National Gallery’s Samson and Delilah another copy?”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 19 February 2004; “Showing Vettriano’s art: in galleries or on place mats?”, The Guardian, letter, 25 March 2004; “Truth is in the eye of the camera lens”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 22 May 2004; “Art ‘conservation’”, The Times, letter, 28 January 2005; “The Simpsons’ debt to Norman Rockwell”, The Guardian, letter, 23 February 2005; “Paling into insignificance”, The Jackdaw, April 2005; “Market has acted to keep stolen antiquities out of Britain”, The Independent, letter, 26 May 2005; “When Turner’s second boat came in”, The Sunday Telegraph, letter, 31 July 2005; “Moving art: a saga of Roman remains, Rubens and restoration”, The Guardian, letter, 15 October 2005: “Restoration dramas”, The Spectator, letter, 24 September 2005; “Tate’s spending”, The Times, letter, 26 September 2005; “Artwork placement”, The Guardian, letter,1 October 2005; “Tate of the Nation”, Private Eye No 1164, letter; “Tate purchase”, The Times, letter, 5 November 2005; “Art theft reward”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 12 November 2005; “Explain the Tate’s mistake”, The Evening Standard, letter,16 November 2005; “Oh Blessed Honthorst”, The Jackdaw, March 2006; “Preserving St Petersburg’s architecture”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 15 April 2006; “Empty pedestal”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 16 June 2006; “X Less”, The Jackdaw, June 2006; “You’ll wonder where the yellow went…”, The Jackdaw, July/August 2006; “Weaver’s tangled web”, The Jackdaw, September 2006; “The Tate’s buying policy in the frame”, The Guardian, letter, 22 July 2006; “Art of angels”, The Times, letter, 26 October 2006; “Classical spaces spoilt by tatty junk”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 10 February 2007; “Tate Modern knows just what the public wants”, The Evening Standard, letter, 26 February 2007; “Solvent abuse”, The Jackdaw, July/August 2007; “Cleaning up the past” (a review of “The Nation’s Mantelpiece”, Jonathan Conlin’s history of the National Gallery), The Jackdaw, July/August 2007 ; “Priceless works of art should not be put at risk”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 24 October 2007; “Public art needn’t be bad”, The Evening Standard, 10 March 2008; “Anthony Gormley’s casts empty of sculptural ideas”, The Daily Telegraph, letter, 11 March 2008; “It’s too risky to keep moving the Titians”, The Independent, letter, 1 September 2008; “Art for art’s sake”, The Times, 4 September 2008; “Britart brand falls out of favour”, The Guardian, letter, 27 September 2008; “Codename Thatcher”, The Guardian, letter, 10 October 2008; “Good Buy Duccio”, The Jackdaw, November/December 2008; “Smaller shows make real sense”, The Evening Standard, letter, 2 January 2009; “End of the celebrity junk-art market”, The Guardian, letter, 21 January 2009; “Buyer Beware”, The Jackdaw, January/February, 2009; “Toxic Attributions?”, The Jackdaw, March/April 2009; “Tainted Tate trustees”, The Evening Standard, letter, 6 March 2009; “Planted Public Sculpture”, The Jackdaw, May/June 2009; “Director’s cut”, (a review of Charles Saumarez Smith’s “The National Gallery ~ A Short History”), The Jackdaw, September/October 2009; “Retiring Mr Wild”, The Jackdaw, March/April 2010; and also, since spring 2000, for the ArtWatch UK Journal.

Broadcasts include: “Restoring the Ambassadors”, a joint National Gallery/BBC television programme and video, 1997; “Nightwaves”, a Radio 3 programme on cultural repatriation, 13 February 2002; “Sixty Minutes” on the Elgin Marbles, CBS, 7 July 2002; “The Elgin Marbles”, BBC2, 26 June 2004; “Q”, The Canadian Arts and Entertainment Program, 6 February 2009 – a debate on children in museums with the director of “Kids in Museums”.

Debates, conferences include:

“Who owns culture?” an international conference on cultural property and patrimony held at Columbia University, 15-17 April 1999 (on the return of Elgin Marbles: Christopher Hitchens v. Michael Daley); also on the return of the Elgin Marbles: Christopher Hitchens v. Michael Daley, The Independent on Sunday, 21 November 1999; “Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?” a debate in The Guardian, November 27 1999 ( Jules Lubbock v. Michael Daley); “Le départment des arts graphiques: Questions critiques”, a debate on drawing conservation, The Louvre, 19 April 2000; “The Social Responsibility of Museums”, conference at the British Museum jointly organised with The Institute of Ideas, 8 July 2000; “The Elgin Marbles Should be Returned to Greece” (William G. Stewart v. Michael Daley), Hills Road College, Cambridge, March 2001; “Disconnected – the changing role of participation”, The Institute of Ideas in association with the Institute for Policy Research and the Adam Smith Institute, London, 21-22 April 2001; “Why Greece does not need the Elgin Marbles” – a paper delivered by Daley at the Economist Conference, Athens, 12 March 2003; The Royal Society of British Artists, 28 May 2004, (Daley speaking for the motion “This house believes that a found object cannot be a work of art”); “Dirt – a phobic construct or a professional ploy?”, an address by Daley to “Smuts”, the Scandinavian IIC Congress, Stockholm, 30 November – 1 December 2006; and, “Who is the rightful owner of the Elgin (Parthenon) marbles?”, an international debate (Professor Anthony Snodgrass, chairman of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles v. Daley) organised by the European Liberal Forum, in Brussels, 28 November 2009.