Lowry’s iconic ‘Going to the Match’ masterpiece has finally come home

LS Lowry's iconic painting 'Going to the Match' has finally been rehung at the Salford gallery which bears the painter's name after it was bought for GBP8.1million. The 1953 painting of people on their way to watch a Bolton Wanderers match at the former Burnden Park stadium was acquired by the gallery at a Christie's auction with the entire funding coming from the Law Family Charitable Foundation. Initially, it was thought the painting was sold for GBP6.6m, but with fees and commission, the final price tag was nearly GBP2m more. 'Going to the Match' will now continue to hang in the gallery where it has been on display for the last 22 years.

It was taken down several months ago when the owner - the Professional Footballers Association - opted to sell it prompting fears it would be bought by a private collector and never be seen in public again. But as well as being on display at the Lowry for the next few months, there are now plans to take the painting 'on tour' around the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester, said the gallery's chief executive Julia Fawcett and Salford city mayor Paul Dennett. READ MORE:"There is a massive hole in our lives": Family's heartbreak after 'precious' little girl, 3, dies in horror crash on M6

Ms Fawcett said: "We're absolutely thrilled [to have the painting back in the gallery]. It seemed like an impossible task at the start of the summer, when we had to take the painting down off our wall and send it off to the auction house because its owners had made the decision to sell it. "We didn't believe that the painting would be coming back to us.

It was an incredibly close thing. We were working so hard throughout the summer months. "Everyone will know and understand that it's not the ideal time to be fundraising and it did seem like it was going to be impossible." She went on: "It's probably the most iconic and famous of LS Lowry's paintings.

It has a kind of universal appeal. It is probably the single most important work in terms of why visitors come to see the galleries and to enjoy his works more generally. "For me, personally, I'm not a huge fan of football, but this painting for me isn't even about football.

It's about people and communities, and that's what Lowry did so well. He told the story of the North in a way that's really compelling and that's why it's so important to us that this painting stayed here." It is estimated the painting has been seen by about 100,000 people a year since it has been on public view, which means that millions must have viewed it since 2000, when the gallery opened.

Ms Fawcett added: "We've seen the football coaches, from Birmingham, London and Liverpool, wherever the crowd are coming from on that day and many of them will come here to see it on the way to watch their team play Manchester United." Mr Dennett echoed the chief executive's words when he said: "I feel absolutely delighted, I really do. Because this painting has now been safeguarded, thanks to the really generous donation from the Law Family Charitable Foundation.

"And it's here forever now, among LS Lowry's biggest collection of drawings and paintings in the world. That is an amazing civic victory for the city of Salford. "There are so many pieces of art going through art houses at the moment, being bought by people around the world and not on public view, and we've managed to safeguard this painting to tell the story of Lowry and to continue to talk about our really proud industrial past and working-class history.

Lowry captured the mundane, the gritty, the ordinary aspects of life. And that's what's really important. "This was quite revolutionary at the time, when you look at what art depicted historically.

It was the preserve of royalty, the middle classes, and moneyed individuals who commissioned pieces of art. Lowry captured the normal working-class life of many people here in Salford and our great northern towns and cities. "Holding on to what Lowry was about and what he captured, is so important for what we do today, reminding ourselves of our proud social history.

For me today is a victory on so many levels and what we do moving forward now is we'll take the painting around Greater Manchester to all the local authorities, to some of the big sporting institutions, the museum of football. "This is where it's at for me, because art should be public and this is a victory for art staying public, especially in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis when people are really struggling to make ends meet. I was watching the auction on my laptop at home in my flat and I was so proud that Salford were there in the room with Julia and her colleagues.

It was fantastic, to see Salford in a big institution like Christie's on the front row. "I was very nervous because we didn't know how this was going to go. It was quite clear that there were three interested parties.

One dropped out quite early on and then Julia and someone on the telephone - we still don't know who that was - were bidding against each other, pushing the price higher and higher." Although Mr Dennett was behind the campaign to keep the painting in Salford, he said it had cost the city council 'absolutely nothing'. "All the money has been found by the Law Family Charitable Foundation," he said. "It's amazing.

They've covered the entire cost of purchasing this painting. They've given the painting to the city and given it so it can be accessible, in perpetuity, free of charge. That is absolutely phenomenal, it really is.

"On the day when the hammer went down, I was so chuffed. It was a victory for the campaign [to save the painting] as well. We've put a lot of effort into trying to encourage people of wealth and means to come forward and work with us to try to safeguard this painting."

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