Funding of the arts and heritage - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Supplementary written evidence submitted by the Arts Council England (art 235)

1.   What is the Arts Council Collection (ACC)?

  1.1  The Arts Council Collection (ACC) is the foremost loan collection of post-war and contemporary British art. With more than 7,500 artworks, it is also the most widely circulated loan collection anywhere in the country. At any one time between 25 and 30% of its works are on show somewhere in the country (this figure is high in comparison to most public collections, which typically have around 10% of their work on show at any one time). The ACC was given National Status under the terms of the National Heritage Act of 1980. The ACC is increasingly accessible online.

  1.2  Established in 1946 to promote and enrich knowledge of contemporary art, the Collection continues to support artists living and working in Britain through the acquisition of their works, many at an early stage of their career, and to foster the widest possible access to modern and contemporary art across the UK.

  1.3  The ACC places modern and contemporary art in a wide variety of public buildings across the UK, from museums and galleries to schools, universities and hospitals, either in the form of one-off exhibitions, or short- or long-term loans. Its travelling exhibitions tour extensively to venues and communities that otherwise have limited access to modern and contemporary art.

  1.4  By exhibiting in diverse communities around the country the Collection reaches a broad demographic, not only through exhibitions, displays and loans, but also by fostering projects with young people, undergraduate and postgraduate students.

  1.5  The ACC commands sustained respect among arts professionals for its excellent track record in the early purchase of artwork (ie before artists become national and international figures). As an illustration of the reputation and recognition of the important role it plays in developing audiences across the country for emerging artists, in the financial year 2009-10 the ACC accepted gifts to a total value of £303,000. Important works in the collection include Head VI by Francis Bacon, Field for the British Isles by Antony Gormley, He Tried to Internalize Everything by Damien Hirst and The Simple Truth by Tracey Emin.

  1.6  The ACC has a robust acquisitions process and makes strenuous and continuous efforts to avoid duplication with other UK public collections, including the Government Art Collection, British Council collection and the Tate collection. The robustness of the methodology is to the standards demanded by third parties such as the Art Fund, who insist on a review of holdings in public collections as a central part of their application process. A review of the holdings of UK public collections is also a standard part of the research process involved in considering any new acquisition to the Collection.

  1.7  Aside from these primary functions, the ACC is a first resource for loans to exhibitions organised by other museums and galleries, alongside other publicly funded national collections of contemporary art.

  1.8  The ACC is not only a resource for borrowing works of art, but also a repository of information about collections management, collecting and curating at the disposal of institutions across the country. It runs a successful annual programme of free professional development events (Curators Days) for curators from public museums and galleries across the UK which acts as a forum for professional networking and the discussion of current issues.

  1.9  In 2009-10 works from the ACC were exhibited in towns and cities throughout the UK, including Leeds, Durham, Plymouth, Bexhill-on-Sea, Carmarthen, Glasgow, Hull, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Lincoln, Southampton, Newcastle, Manchester, Stirling, Ayr, Cardiff, Liverpool, Stoke-on-Trent, Anglesey, Derby, Tunbridge Wells, St Ives, Sheffield, Swansea, Aberystwyth, Norwich, Wolverhampton, Paddock Wood, Walsall, Coventry, Bradford, Cheltenham, York, Nottingham, Scarborough, Stockton on Tees, Lochmaddy, London, Bath, Birmingham, Rugby and Carlisle. A full list of exhibitions and loans from this period is available on request.

2.   Collection storage facilities

  2.1  The ACC is managed by the Southbank Centre, London, on behalf of Arts Council England and is based in the Hayward Gallery at Southbank Centre and at Longside, Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The base at Longside enables the ACC team to extend its sculpture conservation and research programmes and to increase public access to the sculpture collection. A diverse range of exhibitions from the Collection, including displays of some of the most recent acquisitions, can be seen in the adjacent Longside Gallery.

  2.2  The ACC is able to offer any of its art at short notice to public buildings in the country, precisely because no part of the collection is on permanent exhibition in any one art gallery. The ACC places great emphasis on providing efficient and swift access to works, as well as providing good maintenance and management. This is dependent on high quality, well run storage. Our storage facilities at Oval and Longside are active, well-used buildings, with a high traffic of works in and out on a weekly basis, as well as a steady stream of visitors. They not only provide the correct environments for the storage of important works, but also act as venues for a number of events for colleagues from regional museums and galleries every year.

  2.3  The storage facility at Oval enables efficient access to the Hayward Gallery transport for touring exhibitions and loans, as well as being an important location for the viewing of works by potential clients, curators, students and artists. The London store also provides space for cost-effective in-house work such as framing and mounting of flat works, Collection photography, and routine conservation support. This saves significant costs in transport to other professional facilities, as well as obviating the need to hire additional space.

3.   What are the administrative overheads of running the Arts Council Collection?

  3.1  The ACC gets its administrative support from the Southbank Centre, including HR, marketing and communications, legal, and specialist technical departments. The Collection has only 6.6FTE dedicated staff, based in London and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield. All staff are employees of the Southbank Centre.

    — The cost of storage (paid centrally by ACE) in 2008-09 was £328,087.

    — Operational costs in 2008-09 were £404,000.

  3.2  Operational costs include all the expenditure on transport; photography; conservation; framing and material; casemaking and packing; Curators Days; the Select exhibition scheme; research; the exhibition programme at the Longside Gallery and project space; website development; and various other functions.

  3.3  The cost of acquiring artwork is met through a central grant from Arts Council England, which in 2008-09 was £180,000.

4.   What are the barriers to borrowing from the Arts Council Collection?

  4.1  Because the whole collection is available for loan, with no permanent exhibits, there are no significant barriers to borrowing from the Arts Council Collection. Over 90% of loan requests are approved and delivered. Exhibition loan requests are considered monthly, and can be processed, approved and delivered in a short period, typically with a turnaround of three to six months.

  4.2  In the few cases where loans are declined, this is usually because:

    — The requested work is already committed to another exhibition at the time.

    — The venue cannot offer the appropriate conditions in terms of security, climate control, or invigilation.

    — The work is large and physically cannot be fitted through available doors/windows of the venue.

    — Very rarely a loan might be declined on the grounds the work is so fragile and vulnerable that we have to limit the number of occasions it is exhibited in order to prolong its life.

    — The loan request is received at such short notice that it cannot be agreed without jeopardizing the delivery of existing commitments.

  4.3  Loans are not limited to museums and galleries; the Arts Council Collection also lends to charities, hospitals, colleges, professional associations, housing associations and churches.

5.   Expanding the Use of the Arts Council Collection

  5.1  In the past four years there have been new and imaginative efforts to expand the use of and access to the ACC. Projects have been run with school children acting as curators (Ryedale Folk Museum, Leeds Met Gallery, Oriel Davies Gallery and Ferens Art Gallery); stronger links with academic institutions have been fostered via collaborative exhibitions working with students of the Courtauld Gallery, and Goldsmiths College and a new curatorial competition for post-graduate students to create an exhibition from the Collection.

  5.2  The ACC is working with the Hayward Gallery and Southbank Centre on their Haywired scheme, which will see it collaborating with five secondary schools across London during 2011, working with pupils and staff on placing works in the school buildings, and helping the children write their own interpretation material.

  5.3  In 2009, via collaboration with the Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF), all the paintings in the Collection were photographed to the highest professional standard. More than half the cost of this photography was borne by the PCF. All the digital images are being uploaded to the ACC website ( as copyright is cleared; digital access to this section of the Collection will be further broadened in 2011 when the PCF website, Your Paintings, hosted by the BBC, is launched. The ACC will be one of the first art collections to go online with the BBC.

  5.4  In the coming year 2010-11 digital photography and rights clearance will be completed for all remaining works in watercolour, photography, collage, print and drawing, so that these too will be fully illustrated on the Collection's website, dramatically increasing access to information about the Collection's holdings, both in this country and abroad.

  5.5  In 2011 the Arts Council Collection will launch a new collaboration with The National Trust, working with the Trust's Trust New Art scheme to place Collection works in National Trust properties around the UK. The Collection piloted the project in 2009, with a project at Nunnington Hall, in North Yorkshire.

  5.6  Since 2004 the Arts Council Collection has run series of free professional development events (Curators Days) for curators around the country. These were oversubscribed and increased from three to six events annually. These events enable the Collection to update colleagues across the country on new projects, acquisitions and forthcoming touring exhibitions, and are important in generating new partnerships and projects for borrowing from the Collection.

  5.7  In 2010, staff members from the following 43 institutions have attended Arts Council Collection Curators Days: The Lowry, Salford; Djanogly Art Gallery, University of Nottingham; Ferens Art Gallery, Hull; Canterbury Museum and Art Gallery; Bury Art Gallery; Oriel Myrddin, Carmarthen; University of Hertfordshire Galleries; Museum of London; Manchester Metropolitan university; University Hospitals Birmingham; Yorkshire Sculpture Park; MIMA, Middlesborough; Hatton Gallery, Newcastle; Kettle's Yard, Cambridge ; British Council; Artsdepot, London; QUAD, Derby; Southend Museum; Huddersfield Art Gallery; The New Art Gallery Walsall; Towner, Eastbourne; Turner Contemporary, Margate; Ikon, Birmingham; De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill; freelance, Norfolk/London; Wolverhampton Art Gallery; Plymouth Art Gallery; Baltic, Newcastle; Whitworth, Manchester; John Hansard Gallery, Southampton; Southampton City Art Gallery; Guildford Museum and Art Gallery; Holbourne Museum, Bath; Victoria Art Gallery, Bath; Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton; National Museum Wales, Cardiff; John Creasey Museum, Salisbury; Bedlam Gallery, Brunel University; Anglia Ruskin University Arts; Scarborough Art Gallery; Camden Arts Centre, London; Rugby Art Gallery.

  5.8  Details of exhibition loans in the UK and overseas—as well as long loans to UK bodies in the past two years—are available on request.

6.   Third Party Endorsements of Arts Council Collection

    Dr Adrian Locke, Exhibitions Curator, Royal Academy of Arts, London

    "I can only thank you for your extremely positive response to our very late petition to borrow the work. Your collegial attitude was hugely encouraging and I am conscious of having asked you and your colleagues to turn a request around at record speed."

    Dr Andrew Renton, Goldsmiths College, London

    "It feels as if ACC has come alive with possibilities of late, and that we were celebrating those possibilities| It was a privilege to be part of it."

    Hugh Player, Chief Executive, St Martin-in-the-Fields, London

    "We look forward to having [this] work on view at St Martin's, to it enlightening the world for our visitors and ourselves."

    Andy Horn, Exhibitions Manager, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

    "The exhibition Bridget Riley: Flashback at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery proved the value of partnerships with the Arts Council Collection. The exhibition drew in a huge and appreciative audience, doubling the Museum's predicted visitor numbers. Visitors in particular commented on the quality of the work and its presentation. The exhibition proved the regional public's appetite for contemporary art and single artist exhibitions of recognised artists of the caliber of Bridget Riley."

    Angela Blackwell, Curator, Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton

    "Brilliant exhibition, great choice of works, labels and information. This really raised the profile of the gallery, attracted more visitors (many new) and everyone really enjoyed it."

    Robert Hall, Keeper, Huddersfield Art Gallery

    "[The Arts Council Collection exhibition in Huddersfield was] very popular with the public. Also popular with students, plenty of return visitors."

    Antony Gormley, artist

    "The Arts Council Collection is the primary national collection conserved and exhibited for all of us. It is unique in having no fixed abode and being available to museums nationwide. Many of the works were bought early in artists creative lives and for many of them (like me) it was the first sale to a public institution so the works are often seminal to a lifetime's evolution. It is a central resource for anyone interested in the development of British Art and should be protected and celebrated as the most democratic collection we have.

    Field for the British Isles has been in the Collection for years and has been seen in varied venues from a department store to cathedrals all over the country as a result. The Arts Council Collection is an unparalleled national resource and should, at a time of hardship, be treasured as physical proof of our nation's creativity."

    Mark Wallinger, artist

    "The Arts Council Collection has made a unique and valuable contribution to the lives and careers of artists working in this country. By consistently identifying key early works by the best emerging talents it spends presciently and wisely and gives the encouragement and kudos so crucial to those struggling to make a start in a precarious profession. And that is merely the beginning. The Collection acquired my work, Angel, in 1997, since when it has been exhibited in no less than 18 different galleries the length and breadth of this country. I can't tell you the amount of people I bump into who cite seeing this work in places I never knew it had been, for which I am very grateful."

    eyton-Jones, Director, Serpentine Gallery

    "The Arts Council Collection is an invaluable resource for organisations like the Serpentine Gallery. Seminal works by artists Rebecca Warren, Richard Hamilton and Gustav Metzger, that may have otherwise been unattainable, have been lent to the Serpentine Gallery by the Collection in the last 18 months alone for the enjoyment of thousands of people. It has provided a vital contribution to culture for many years, and is now online for the benefit of a wider audience."

    Alex Farquharson, Director, Nottingham Contemporary

    "Whichever way you look at it, the contemporary art market being what it is, £180,000 is an extremely modest acquisition budget for an important, public and nationally distributed collection of contemporary art. Over the years, the curators of the Arts Council Collection have produced a disproportionately high artistic and educational return on this investment through a selection process that is intelligent, responsible and imaginative. The Hockney and Bacon examples ... illustrate this. In my experience of running public galleries in Nottingham, Cardiff and Exeter, those overseeing it have been generous in responding to requests for loans of art works from the Collection."

    Simon Wallis, Director, the Hepworth Wakefield

    "The Hepworth Wakefield has been working closely and productively with the Arts Council Collection in developing the gallery's collection displays and exhibition programme, which opens to the public in May 2011. We see the Arts Council Collection as a vital national resource that we will be drawing from extensively and regularly to benefit the people of the region and our many visitors. Caroline Douglas is a great champion of making this expertly researched, astute and important collection widely accessible. We are delighted to be working closely with her and her team to further this wider appreciation and enjoyment of world-class art made in this country from 1946 to the present day."

    Stephen Snoddy, Director, New Art Gallery, Walsall

    "We at The New Art Gallery, Walsall have always regarded our relationship with the Arts Council Collection as extremely positive and rewarding and our requests for loans, even at short notice have been granted, even to the extent that the Collection curators have suggested additional loans to complement the exhibition or display. As resources become more limited the Collection will be more in demand and I'm sure it will respond by reaching out across the country."

    Jonathan Watkins, Director, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham

    "I'm writing in response to Dalya Alberge's article in The Sunday Times (31 October) concerning the Arts Council Collection. It strikes me as a misleading account, particularly in light of the numerous loans that have been made to Ikon, enhancing our exhibitions, making them more attractive to tens of thousands of visitors. The professionalism and responsiveness of your team is exemplary as befits the nature of the cultural asset that you manage. It is valuable (beyond the sum of the values of individual works of art) and lively through the method of acquisitions, tracing an extraordinary history as well as providing wonderful aesthetic encounters. Any idea of `selling parts of the collection to help meet the [current] funding crisis' would be strategically short sighted. Please know that we here at Ikon stand shoulder to shoulder with you in resistance."

November 2010

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