Original works of art created by some of the best known artists in the UK are hidden away and not on public display, says Michael Dugher MP for Barnsley East, Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Culture Secretary. He points out that over 22,000 paintings, prints and sculptures have been catalogued by the Government Art Collection and only a ‘Privileged Few’ ever get to see them in the flesh.
Although most are available to view online, a little known fact revealed to Artlyst by Adrian George, Deputy Director and Senior Curator of the collection who explained, “You can visit our premises in central London by booking onto one of our regular tours. You will see a selection of works from the Collection, hear about our history and role, and get a behind-the-scenes look at works as they are prepared for display”. George added, “Many others are available to view by request to the DCMS. Everyone is welcome to apply, but mainly scholars and and academics have in the past made these requests”.
The value of the collection which ranges from Andy Warhol and Tracey Emin to John Constable and William Hogarth is placed at tens of millions of pounds. The works are on display in MPs’ offices, ministries and British Embassies around the world. Mr Dugher is now proposing a new public gallery housed in a Parliament building to display the collection. He has written to Speaker of the House John Bercow to request a space be made available on the parliamentary estate.
Dugher stated; “The works from the Parliamentary Art Collection and the Government Art Collection could then be rotated on a regular basis so that all art lovers, academics and art students would be able to access the historic collections.“All these great works of art are publicly owned so it is only right that everyone, not just a privileged few, should have the opportunity to see and learn from them.”
Works of art from the Government Art Collection (GAC) are displayed in UK Government buildings in nearly every capital city, making it the most dispersed collection of British art in the world. The role of the Collection is to promote British art while contributing to cultural diplomacy. Dating from 1898, the Collection has expanded over the years and now contains over 13,500 works of art from the 16th century to the present day by mainly British artists in a broad range of media. These maps show the locations where works are on display. (see link below)
New works of art are purchased with the approval of an Advisory Committee. The collection mainly acquires works by artists who have a strong British connection: for example, those who were born in Britain, or who have lived or are living in the country. Works must be robust enough to withstand being displayed in a non-gallery environment – a Minister’s office or a working building such as an Embassy or Residence.
In 2011, Highlights from the Collection were shown at the Whitechapel Gallery in a series of five successive displays, marking the first time the collection has been shown in a public gallery in its 113 year history. It was part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s ongoing programme of opening up collections that are rarely seen by the public in the UK.
Words: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2016 Image: Tracey Emin ‘More Passion’ 2010 © all rights reserved
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