Erik Möller’s posted to the Wikimedia blog on the issue. Note the correction of the NPG’s claims that Wikimedia never responded to them (rather than responding with “Bridgeman v. Corel, go away”) — Erik assumes good faith and presumes this is in error.
Other British taxpayers as annoyed at the NPG’s waste of their money as I am have been putting in FOI requests to see just how much money they make from keeping it all to themselves (£378k before expenses — what are the expenses? six staff, what else?), how much they’re spending on legal representation, what proportion of their web hits are from Wikimedia links and so forth.
(One request that should be made: £10-15k annually from web licenses — they need to be asked how much the person handling these licenses is paid. They make more money selling food in the café. Suggest your best prospective FOI requests in the comments!)
I’m suspecting a severe case of bureaucratic empire building here: the bureaucrats honestly think the paintings belong to them rather than to us. Which is what one might see from a private for-profit corporation, but is rather less than acceptable for a government sub-department, not even an independent charity. As Sage Ross notes from Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody:
Self-preservation of the institution becomes job number one, while its stated goal is relegated to job number two or lower, no matter what the mission statement says.