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Thursday31 July 2014

Sainsbury donates £25m to Rogers' British Museum extension

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Conservative peer John Sainsbury has personally backed Richard Rogers’ £135 million British Museum extension by giving £25 million towards the project.

Over the weekend, it also emerged that the Tate’s mystery benefactor, who recently gave a seven-figure sum for Herzog & de Meuron’s £215 million Tate Modern extension is John Browne, the former BP chairman.

Both donations come at a time when the arts are under enormous pressure, with museums and galleries fearing their funding will be cut by 25% in next month’s spending review.

Sainsbury, former chairman and chief executive of the supermarket, has a long history of generous donations to major arts projects. He gave £10 million towards Rick Mather’s renovation of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

His latest donation means the museum now has more than three-quarters of what it needs to build the Rogers Stirk Harbour extension and work could start next spring.

The building, which will house blockbuster exhibitions and delicate conservation work, was initially rejected by Camden’s planning committee but after revision to the original scheme won planning last year.

Two new pavilions – rather than three – will be built. They are also lower and slimmer than first planned.

The billionaire philanthropist and his two brothers gave £50 million to the National Gallery for the Sainsbury Wing which opened in 1991.

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