UK Gallery Partnerships Get £5m From Art Fund To Buy International Art

By Caroline Lewis | 05 November 2007
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a red sculpture in the shape of a heart made out of translucent plastic objects

New Art Gallery Walsall, part of the winning West Midlands partnership, is currently exhibiting work by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos. © Joana Vasconcelos

The five partnerships to share the Art Fund International Prize of £5 million for collecting art from outside the UK have been announced.

Each partnership between UK museums and contemporary art organisations will receive £1 million to be used over the next five years in building collections of international contemporary art.

The successful partnerships are:

• Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives in partnership with Arnolfini
• Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, in partnership with The Common Guild
• Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art (mima) in partnership with The Drawing Centre, New York
• Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, in partnership with Photoworks, Brighton Photo Biennial and ArtSway
• West Midlands partnership: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and New Art Gallery Walsall in partnership with Ikon

photograph of the exterior of a large Georgian building with a lawn and bed of daffodils

Eastbourne's Towner Art Gallery has won in partnership with other south coast art organisations. Courtesy Towner Art Gallery and Museum

“We were stunned by the amazing response to the initiative,” said David Barrie, Director of the Art Fund, “particularly by the enthusiasm and ideas generated by the museums working in partnership with contemporary art organisations.”

“The vision and ability of the five winners was particularly impressive – now comes the exciting task of acquiring and commissioning work to make their ideas a reality. These are the spaces to watch as we begin to realise the enormous ambition of developing international contemporary art collections around the country.”

The Bristol partnership won for its proposal ‘Glass Walls: Reflections and Interactions’, which focuses on art responding to urbanisation, tradition and identity, globalisation and migration.

Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art partnership is to focus on photographic, video, audio and text-based works, while the mima partnership wants to build up a collection of drawings by artists in North and South America.

photo of a large modern glass fronted building and a lawned area

mima opened in January 2007. Courtesy mima

Taking Eastbourne’s position on the south coast as a starting point, the Towner Gallery partnership will use the idea of Edges as the basis for its collecting, looking for images that reflect of physical boundaries and social frontiers.

The West Midlands partnership’s collection theme is ‘The Metropolis – reflections of modern urban life’.

The Art Fund International scheme emerged from discussions prior to the charity’s centenary exhibition and international conference in 2003. It was clear that UK museums have long failed to collect art by living non-British artists. Only 17 per cent of Art Fund grants in the last 20 years have gone towards the acquisition of contemporary art, and 83 per cent of it was for work by British artists.

The prize required museums to form partnerships with contemporary art organisations for the first time. Nearly 90 organisations, as part of 29 partnerships, entered applications for the prize, with ten invited to make full proposals.

The prize money will be allocated for specific purchases between now and 2012.

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