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Peas Are The New Beans

Peas Are The New Beans by Bob and Roberta Smith, a 1993 painting, raised a smile at HM Treasury

GAC Roles in Action

Looking after over 14000 works of art, our staff bring expertise, passion and pragmatism to their roles. Discover what happens behind the scenes at the GAC.

About

For over 120 years, the Government Art Collection has championed British art, history and culture around the world.

Growing the Collection

By the 1930s, diplomats and officials became accustomed to working alongside historical artworks from the Collection and it was clear that art in embassies had an impact on how these buildings were experienced by visitors.

The Origins of the Collection

The Government Art Collection dates back to 1899 when a small number of portraits and landscapes were bought for government offices as an economical way of sprucing up tired-looking rooms in Whitehall.

History of the Collection

Art is one way of remembering Britain’s long-standing historical relationships with other nations. As Britain has shifted away from conflict and renegotiated its relationship with others in the postwar era, soft power and cultural diplomacy have become increasingly important national and political expressions.

Partnership Projects

The Government Art Collection is committed to working with different partners to create opportunities to support and promote the Collection, finding new ways to reach wider audiences.

Jan Siberechts’ painting ‘View of Longleat’

Jan Siberechts’ painting ‘View of Longleat’ features in the British Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of a long-term loan.

Reports

Our combined annual report and acquisition lists are published in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

Meeting a demand for art

The lack of art in embassy buildings was increasingly acknowledged after the First World War, during a period when the background of new ministers and ambassadors rising up through the ranks of Britain’s diplomatic workforce slowly started to change.

A Working Collection

Works from the Collection are regularly on the move. Find out about what’s needed to make this happen and the job mission of the art works themselves

Bonn to Berlin: an Embassy’s Journey

The story of not just one but three British Embassies in Germany and the art that has been displayed in them.

Paintings by Jessica Dismorr and Winifred Nicholson

Paintings by Jessica Dismorr and Winifred Nicholson on loan to the exhibition, 'Radical Women: Jessica Dismorr and her Contemporaries' at the Pallant House Gallery

Contact Us

Find out how you can get in touch with us

Licensing Images

The Government Art Collection has a substantial library of images of the Collection and these are available for commercial reproduction, educational or personal use.

What is the Government Art Collection?

Why the Government has an art collection, what it collects and why the Collection is spread across the world.

Curious Facts

Discover interesting and quirky facts about artworks within the Collection.

Coming Home

In 1925, a Hungarian nobleman of Polish origins, named Tibor Scitovszky de Nagyker, and his wife Hanna, built and occupied an elegant villa in neo-baroque style in the hills of Buda in Hungary.

A Meeting of Cultures

This series presented by Dr Laura-Maria Popoviciu, marks a new installation of works of art from the Government Art Collection at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Tehran.

From Decoration to Diplomacy

Images of British monarchs and famous figures brought a sense of stature to entrance halls and state rooms. The presence of works like these in embassies, started to raise awareness of the powerful cultural diplomatic role that art could play.

Tristram Hillier’s painting, ‘Fossils (February)’

Tristram Hillier’s painting, ‘Fossils (February)’ features in ‘Landscapes of the Mind: the Art of Tristram Hillier’ at The Museum of Somerset, Taunton from 6 November 2019 – 18 April 2020

James Pryde’s painting, ‘The Monument’

James Pryde’s painting, 'The Monument', features in 'James Pryde at Dunecht', at Daniel Katz Gallery, London from 5 October – 20 December 2019

The Robson Orr TenTen Award

This annual print commission is awarded to an outstanding British artist every year for ten years with the support of philanthropists Sybil Robson Orr and Matthew Orr.

#keenonWien

The British Ambassador’s Residence in Vienna opened in 1875. It has the distinction of being one of the earliest buildings constructed for that purpose which remains in use as a British Ambassador’s Residence.

When Art Meets Diplomacy

GAC historical curator, Dr Laura Popoviciu interviews Paul Brummell, Head of Soft Power and External Affairs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Conoid, Sphere, Hollow III’

Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Conoid, Sphere and Hollow II’ features in the first monographic exhibition in Paris dedicated to the leading British sculptor, opening at the Musée Rodin on 5 November 2019.

Spoliation

Spoliation of works of art during the Holocaust and World War II period

Changing art for a changing Britain

After the War, several new works entering the Collection were displayed at 10 Downing Street, reflecting the mood of post-war Britain

Robson Orr TenTen Award 2019

Tacita Dean announced for Government Art Collection Commission

Ways of Seeing

Find out more about Ways of Seeing, our exciting collaboration this year with Waltham Forest, the first London Borough of Culture.

A new identity to meet the world

Moving away from its imperial past and engaging with a new postwar world order, Britain began building and shaping a new identity at home and abroad.

Explore the Collection

There are so many ways to discover this unusual collection.

A Showcase for Art

Keen to champion Britain’s position in the world, Margaret Thatcher saw the potential of 10 Downing Street as a place to showcase art, and took an active interest in new displays.

From Pauline Borghese to Queen Victoria. The Paris Embassy between Legacy and Ceremony

In this blog, Dr Laura Popoviciu gives an insight into the history of the British Embassy in Paris during the 19th century through a selection of historical works of art on loan to the embassy from the Government Art Collection.

A Very Big Bean: Art in an Embassy

Tim Hitchens was Britain’s Ambassador to Japan from 2012–2016 and during that time, the GAC worked with him to curate new displays of art for the Embassy and Residence in Tokyo. In this interview from 2015, he reflects on the role that art played on site.

Battlefields of Britain

The funding and provision of art for government buildings and embassies paused during the Second World War. A small number of works were lost, damaged or destroyed as a result of the hostilities. One exception was Battlefields of Britain by Christopher R. W. Nevinson.

Collecting for the future

Adapting and reflecting the world around it, the ambition of the Collection is to continue to challenge and acknowledge its historical roots. New acquisitions are considered by subject, theme or an artist’s personal experience, all of which resonate with different aspects of contemporary British society

Making an entrance: contemporary art at the British Ambassador’s Residence, Beijing

The GAC display at the Residence ties together our efforts of portraying a modern, sustainable and innovative Britain, whilst linking to key historical events and individuals.

Curating the Contemporary Display for the Paris Embassy

Among the many aspects involved in being Deputy Director and Senior Curator at the Government Art Collection, Eliza Gluckman shares insight into one of her projects: curating the contemporary display in Paris

Robson Orr TenTen Award 2018

Still Life with Artificial Flowers is an intricate print that evokes a snapshot of the artist’s mother’s front room in Birmingham. Hurvin Anderson graduated from Wimbledon School of Art in 1994 and his distinct painting style is informed both by British painters such as Leon Kossoff, Michael Andrews and David Hockney as well as a generation of Black British artists, Sonia Boyce, Eddie Chambers and Keith Piper.

Cultural diplomacy and soft power

Find out why art can be useful in international diplomacy, and the Collection’s role in strengthening Britain’s soft power

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Collecting Stories about Art at the GAC

Dr Claire FitzGerald, Curator (Modern & Contemporary) tells us about her love for uncovering the stories hidden within the Government Art Collection

On Show

Learn about the Collection's latest loans of art to museums and exhibitions

Advisory Committee

The role of the Advisory Committee is to approve the acquisition and commission of works of art and to advise on the policy and stewardship of the Collection. See who the current members are.