Art X-UK

Over 2020, the Government Art Collection has collaborated with contemporary art networks to collect new works by 45 visual artists from across the UK, celebrating and supporting the diversity of creativity across the Union.

In 2020, a difficult and unusual year, the Collection invited the networks for nine regions in England, and the networks in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, to nominate artists as part of a special project, Art X-UK. Our collection curators went on a virtual tour of artists’ studios from Penwith to Ballygally, to select works for the Collection to display in government buildings worldwide. Art X-UK, supported by the Advisory Committee on the Government Art Collection, was a unique way of responding to the impact of COVID-19 on the visual arts sector.

This project has enabled the Collection to support 45 artists, acquiring over 90 works, and spending £230,000 across the UK. As part of the nomination process, we asked each network to form a group and put forward the artists’ names, providing a statement on their selection process for transparency, including a list of the selectors. Asked to consider diverse representation of artists within each region, 24 of the artists are women, 2 identify as non-binary, 20 as minority ethnic, 6 as LGBTQ+, and 4 with disclosed disability.

The Government Art Collection partnership has enabled an incredible opportunity for artists across England. Our nine regions from Cornwall to Cumbria put forward artists that perhaps are not well represented by major collections and institutions. It has been an honour that CVAN could provide this platform and work with GAC to support artists during such a critical time.

Paula Orrell, National Director, Contemporary Visual Art Network

How we collect and what’s different this year

The Collection has an annual acquisitions budget. Three times a year, the Advisory Committee meets to view potential acquisitions and agree on new works for the Collection.

Artist Joy Gerrard with her work International Women’s Day. Paris. March 2020

This year, the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK led us to review our usual procedures of sourcing and researching artworks. With no physical access to studios, galleries and art fairs, and struck by the impact of lockdown on the artistic community, we decided to work with the national contemporary visual art networks, Contemporary Visual Art Network (CVAN, England), Scottish Visual Art Network (SCAN), Visual Arts Group Wales (VAGW) and the Belfast Art Forum, to spread our resources and support through collecting from artists living across the UK.

An a-n (The Artists Newsletter) survey in late March 2020 of over 4000 UK artists revealed that 42% of established artists and 32% of emerging artists estimated their income would reduce by over 76% this year. Due to repeated lockdowns the museum and gallery sector has, on the whole, been unable to support artists who rely on commissions, exhibitions, residencies and community-based work.

We asked the networks to put forward the names of 4-6 artists who live in or are from their areas and are representative of the demographic diversity. We set out to spend up to £20,000 per region, committing to collect work from at least two artists per region.

Working with the Government Art Collection to identify the next Wales-based artists to enter the Collection was a pivotal moment for our devolved nation. The acquisition comes at a key moment in the careers of Adéọlá Dewis, Rabab Ghazoul, Jake Grewal and Gareth Griffith enabling them to further their practice and maximise the impact of their work with audiences and professionals alike. The partnership with GAC has established an important precedent for the Welsh visual arts and cultural sector and VAGW fully supports such endeavour.

Alfredo Cramerotti, Visual Arts Group Wales and Director, Mostyn contemporary art gallery

Who we worked with

Artist Emily Speed in her studio with her work Flat Pack

Contemporary Visual Art Network
Operating across nine regions of England, the Contemporary Visual Art Network is a sector support and advocacy organisation, working regionally and nationally since 2012. A network that advocates for and represents a diverse community of artists, creative practitioners, arts organisations, institutions and art galleries across the whole of England’s visual arts sector. Regions: South West, South East, London, East, East Midlands, West Midlands, Yorkshire, North East, North West.

Scottish Contemporary Art Network
Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN) connects and champions Scotland’s contemporary art community. 297 organisational and individual members work at the heart of communities from Shetland to the Scottish Borders and from East Lothian to the Western Isles.

Artist Leslie Thompson working on Animals from Memory

They include Scotland’s leading galleries, artists’ studios, workshops and production facilities and a highly skilled workforce of artists, art workers and creative thinkers. They sustain a network of free at the point of access galleries and venues, responsive and flexible institutions that anchor local communities and open their doors to their neighbours and visitors alike.

Belfast Visual Art Forum
The Belfast Visual Arts Forum was established in 2014 to promote and celebrate Belfast as “a city where visual arts can be embraced and enjoyed by all”. The Forum currently has over 70 members with a broad range of interests plus key stakeholders, including us, Audiences NI and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Visual Arts Group Wales 
Visual Arts Group Wales (VAGW) is an independent, voluntary network that exists to strengthen the contemporary visual arts sector in Wales through partnership, advocacy and training.

We’re so proud to have played our part in a scheme that will share the work of brilliant artists from Scotland, Atelier E.B, Rabiyah Choudhry, Jamie Crewe and Alberta Whittle, with audiences across the world. This Government Art Collection initiative is supporting artists through the pandemic and telling a richer story about who is making art today, where, how and why.

Moira Jeffery, Director, Scottish Contemporary Art Network

Art X-UK artists

Artist Lindsey Mendick in her studio with two vases from her Wedding Vows series

Bruce Asbestos (CVAN East Midlands), Simon Bayliss (CVAN South West), Rabiya Choudhry (Scottish Contemporary Art Network), Donna Coleman (Yorkshire and Humber Visual Arts Network), Jamie Crewe (Scottish Contemporary Art Network), Paul Crook (New Art West Midlands), Adéọlá Dewis (Visual Art Group Wales), Lisa Fielding-Smith (Yorkshire and Humber Visual Arts Network), Michael Forbes (CVAN East Midlands), Naomi Frears (CVAN South West), Atelier E.B (Scottish Contemporary Art Network), Kathryn Elkin (CVAN North East), Leo Fitzmaurice (CVAN North West), Joy Gerrard (Belfast Visual Arts Network), Rabab Ghazoul (Visual Art Group Wales), Graham Gingles (Belfast Visual Arts Network), Jake Grewal (Visual Art Group Wales), Gareth Griffiths (Visual Art Group Wales), Sunil Gupta (CVAN London), Manish Harijan (Yorkshire and Humber Visual Arts Network), Joey Holder (CVAN East Midlands), Mahtab Hussain (CVAN South East), Elsa James (East CVAN), Samson Kambalu (CVAN South East), Jasleen Kaur (CVAN London), Susan MacWilliam (Belfast Visual Arts Network), Lindsey Mendick (CVAN London), Jade Montserrat (Yorkshire and Humber Visual Arts Network), Harold Offeh (East CVAN), John Rainey (Belfast Visual Arts Network), Antonio Roberts (New Art West Midlands), Freddie Robins (East CVAN), Christopher Samuel (CVAN East Midlands), Lindsay Seers (CVAN South East), Libita Sibungu (CVAN South West), Nicola Singh (CVAN North East), Emily Speed (CVAN North West), Lucy Stein (CVAN South West), Matt Stokes (CVAN North East), Leslie Thompson (CVAN North West), Romily Alice Walden (CVAN London), Alberta Whittle (Scottish Contemporary Art Network), Aaron Williamson (CVAN South East), Everton Wright (EVEWRIGHT) (East CVAN), Nilupa Yasmin (New Art West Midlands)

We would like to thank the supporting galleries: Will Lunn, Copperfield Gallery; Gregor Staiger; Hales Gallery; Kate MacGarry; Matt’s Gallery; Seventeen; and The Sunday Painter. A most special thanks to all the networks and panelists who gave their time to put forward this exceptional selection of artists from across the UK.

To keep updated on Art X-UK and learn more about these artworks, follow the Government Art Collection on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and use the hashtag #ArtXUK to take part in the conversation.