Arts Council Collection Goes Online For Its 60th Birthday

By Johnny Wilson | 21 December 2006
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a painting of two red deer standing near a lake

Peter Doig, Red Deer, 1990. © the artist, 2006. Arts Council Collection, Hayward Gallery, London

To celebrate its 60th birthday, the Arts Council collection of post-war British art will be made available for all to enjoy on the Internet.

The collection, formed in 1946 and administered by the Hayward Gallery since 1987, encompasses some 7,500 works by over 2,000 artists. These include works by some of the biggest names in British art like Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Henry Moore and David Hockney.

By allowing unprecedented access to its collection, the Arts Council hopes the public will explore its archives more and even curate their own online exhibitions. Sir Christopher Frayling, of Arts Council England said, “We are delighted that the new online gallery will give even greater access, allowing millions more to enjoy the full range of works in the collection.”

a painting of a girl's head with blonde hair

Lucian Freud, Girl In A Green Dress. © the artist. Arts Council Collection, Hayward Gallery, London

All original works from the collection acquired since 1946 are catalogued online with plans to add prints and photos of them over the next two years. All those purchased since 1989 are already illustrated.

With 30 per cent of the archive on loan at any time, the collection is the most widely circulated in the country and its posting on the Internet should help to improve the system which circulates works of art to museums and galleries.

At the moment any institution has to go to the collections’ London or Yorkshire storehouses to select which art pieces they wish to borrow. By being able to look at works online means the need to do this is removed.

a photo of a woman sat down wearing a t-shirt with two fried eggs on it

Sarah Lucas, Sarah Self Portrait With Fried Eggs. © the artist. Arts Council Collection, Hayward Gallery, London

Formed soon after the war, the Arts Council has tried to collect interesting works of art for posterity and to promote knowledge and acceptance of contemporary art in Britain.

To this day it continues to purchase works by emerging British artists and as part of these celebrations is showcasing the work of 60 artists, among them Grayson Perry and Gillian Wearing.

Back in 1946 the first work purchased by the Collection was Edward Burra’s Design for Drop Curtain while the most requested painting is Francis Bacon’s Study for a Portrait of Van Gogh (1957).

The works can be found at

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