THE Governor yesterday rejected accusations he is depriving the public of the opportunity to see modern works of art by putting them on the walls of Government House. Chris Patten's comments came after two Urban Councillors said he should either hand the paintings back to the Museum of Art or rent them. Councillor Wong Chung-ki said Mr Patten was plundering the museum's stocks because of his interest in modern art. And Mr Patten confirmed many of the 98 paintings on loan were by modern Hong Kong artists. But it was his 'impression' the artists were 'delighted that their works are on view rather than kept in the reserves of the Urban Council'. All the paintings had been selected from the Urban Council's reserves and had become 'more accessible' since being hung in Government House,' the Governor claimed. Mr Wong and fellow urban councillor Au Yuk-ha, both from the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, raised the issue with Museum of Art curator Gerard Tsang Chu-chiu. Mr Wong quoted Mr Tsang as saying former governor Sir David Wilson had once lost an oil painting. The council had written it off. The paintings at Government House are worth an estimated $7.6 million, including a anonymous $1.05 million oil painting featuring Beijing's Summer Palace. The council had also lent 14 paintings and two antiques, worth a total of $200,000, to the office and official residence of Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang. Mr Wong described the loans as a 'historic problem'. The council had been entitled to the return of all government-owned art from officials except the Governor and Chief Secretary since 1962. But it was not until 1978 that it set about actually bringing the works back in. Mr Wong accused Mr Patten of 'grabbing' modern art from the museum, and called for an end to this 'special privilege'. 'The situation becomes worse as they renew items on loan,' he said. The association proposed the council either scrapped the policy of lending art to officials, or asked Mr Patten and Mrs Chan to pay for the pictures and for the routine checks on their condition. It also called on the council to blacklist government officials who had lost art, and to retrieve all items which had been loaned until they stepped up security measures. Compensation or maintenance fees should be paid if any artwork on loan was lost or damaged. Chairman of the Urban Council Ronald Leung Ding-bong endorsed the two members' demand, admitting that lending art to the Governor and the Chief Secretary amounted to a privilege. Asked if he thought it necessary to pay rent, Mr Patten said: 'I've said what the position is. If the Urban Council comes to a different view, so be it. 'I hope that in any views they come to, they'll consult some of the artists whose work is being shown, which wasn't previously the case.'