Representation of the People Project 2018-28
The Government Art Collection is displayed in key government buildings in the UK, and at embassies abroad. It represents Britain to the world through its artists and their work. All of Britain’s communities should see themselves represented in this collection and know it includes them.
What we have achieved
- In 2015-16, prior to this project’s launch, we worked with researchers for Black Artists and Modernism (BAM, an Arts and Humanities Research Council project) on an audit of selected UK national collections to identify artworks by artists of African, Caribbean, Asian and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Region descent who were born in, lived, worked or studied in the UK. This gave us valuable baseline data on the collection.
- In 2020, when the lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic meant we couldn’t visit artists’ studios and galleries in person, we invited regional contemporary visual arts networks, and their counterparts in the devolved nations, to propose artists for the Collection. The Art X-UK acquisitions project presented us with the opportunity to work in partnership and foregrounded ideas of inclusive representation; we acquired 90 works by 45 artists from Ballygalley to Penwith. Most of these artists identified with groups who were underrepresented in the Collection.
- Between 2012 and 2015, works by artists of African, Caribbean and Asian descent who were born in, lived, worked or studied in the UK comprised just under 3% of our acquisitions. A DeAI audit of GAC acquisitions of modern and contemporary works made between 2016-2019 however showed that this had gone up to almost a quarter of our acquisitions made in these years.
- The number of artworks made by women in the collection stood at just 10.3% in 2018. Since 2018, however, artwork by made by women has comprised 47% of our acquisitions.
- Our innovative partnership project, Ways of Seeing, with the first London Borough of Culture opened up works in the collection to the diverse communities of Waltham Forest. A community engagement programme and educational resources for teachers and schools helped draw in audiences. Targeted at those who do not habitually visit art museums, the exhibition saw 68 artworks by 35 artists displayed in 28 different spaces, of which 90% were not museum venues. In 2021 we worked in partnership with Coventry City of Culture’s Show Windows project.
- Our Voices on Art project invited colleagues from the DCMS Black Asian and Minority Ethnic network to select and reflect on art works from the collection that resonated with them.
We are continuing to work collaboratively to ensure that we include opinions and voices from multiple perspectives in our programme and digital engagement going forward. We will continue to update our progress on The Representation of the People Project at regular intervals.