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Work by West Midlands artists acquired for UK’s largest loan collection of contemporary art

  • Date: 1 May 2014
  • Area: Midlands
From Chris Clinton's recent exhibition at the New Art Gallery Walsall

‘Nascar #29 Kevin Hardwick’ (2013) by Chris Clinton.

After being spotted at galleries and studios in Birmingham, artwork by four artists based in the West Midlands has been bought by the biggest loan collection of contemporary British art in the UK. 

Barbara Walker, Stuart Whipps, Chris Clinton and Lucy Hutchinson are amongst the 21 artists whose work is the latest to be purchased by the Arts Council Collection Acquisitions Committee in 2013/14 after a recent visit to galleries and studios in Birmingham.

“The Arts Council Collection, managed by Southbank Centre on behalf of Arts Council England, continues to support artists across the country by early and timely acquisition of their work," said Jill Constantine, Acting Head of Collections, Arts Council Collection. "This year we have been able to buy some exceptional work by regionally based artists and I’m delighted that the breadth of practice across the country is represented in the Arts Council Collection.”

Birmingham-based painter Barbara Walker, explores class, representation, power and belonging in her work, which has been exhibited in the UK and internationally in Australia, Brazil and South Africa. Her oil painting entitled ‘Boundary I’ (2000) has been acquired for the collection.

Photographer Stuart Whipps, whose work has been shown at galleries throughout the UK and internationally in China, France, Portugal, South Africa and Spain, is based at a studio at Grand Union in Digbeth. He often creates images which depict the aftermath of physical, economic or social change. His digital photographic print, ‘A Fragment of Birmingham Central Library 2013’, has been purchased for the collection.

“The Arts Council Collection’s Acquisition Committee is fortunate to have representation from curators and directors who work outside of London and bring their knowledge of regional artists. This means it is one of few national art collections which is truly active supporting artists in the regions and helping them reach a wider public,” said Peter Heslip, National Director Visual Arts, Arts Council England.

Since its creation in 1946, the Arts Council Collection has established a tradition of buying work by up-and-coming artists, many of whom have gone on to achieve critical acclaim, including, Francis Bacon, Grayson Perry, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

Chris Clinton and Lucy Hutchinson are recent graduates from Birmingham City University and Coventry University.

After completing his MA in Fine Art in 2011, Chris’ work was shown in the first New Art West Midlands exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in 2013. He has since gone on to hold a solo show at the New Art Gallery Walsall. Two of his reworked corkboards, entitled ‘Spiderman’ (2013) and ‘Nascar #29 Kevin Hardwick’ (2013), have been selected for the collection.

Since finishing her BA in Fine Art in 2013, Lucy’s work has featured as part of the 2014 New Art West Midlands exhibition at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Her photographic print ‘Blonde’ (2013) has been acquired for the collection.

New Art West Midlands is run by Turning Point West Midlands and supported by investment from Arts Council England’s Grants for the arts programme. Investing in New Art West Midlands is one of the ways Arts Council England is supporting visual artists to pursue successful careers in the West Midlands.

“This is really fantastic news. The West Midlands is home to many talented artists and it’s brilliant to see this talent gain national recognition. Over the last four years Arts Council England has been working closely with Turning Point West Midlands, universities and other local organisations to invest in and develop the visual arts sector in the region. The successful purchase of artwork by four artists who live and work in the West Midlands is proof that this investment is yielding real returns, especially for graduates who are just beginning to forge their careers. For Chris and Lucy, being part of the Arts Council Collection will mean their work will be seen and enjoyed by people all across the UK as well as internationally," said Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England.

Since 2013, New Art West Midlands has given students graduating from Birmingham City University, Coventry University, Staffordshire University, the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Worcester, the unique opportunity to exhibit their work in some of the area’s most renowned galleries, including, The Barber Institute of Fine Art, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Grand Union, New Art Gallery Walsall and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

In the first year these exhibitions were seen by over 50,000 people. Now, Chris and Lucy’s work will become part of the UK’s biggest touring collection of contemporary British art alongside world-famous pieces such as Grayson Perry’s ‘Lamentation’.

“The recent acquisition of new work by the Arts Council England is testimony to the quality and range of work being produced by these West Midlands based artists," said Wendy Law, Director, Turning Point West Midlands. "To be included in such a significant public and national art collection demonstrates clear support for artists and endorsement of their practice. It is encouraging to see recognition for good artists at different stages in their careers, Barbara Walker and Stuart Whipps both with significant track records, alongside recent graduates Chris Clinton and Lucy Hutchinson and both participating artists in the graduate showcase New Art West Midlands."