Arts Council Collection
The Arts Council Collection was initiated by Kenneth Clark with a remit to collect art for the Festival of Britain, and then retained in order to collect work by British artists at an early stage of their career.
It is a living collection and archive of international significance, providing the largest source of loan items of modern and contemporary British art. Most British artists of national status working since the 1930s are represented and many works of outstanding importance are included in the Collection. Annual acquisitions have recently been broadened to include artists living and working in Britain.
In total, the Collection represents the work of 2,162 artists and holds 7,747 artworks. Of these, approximately 1,500 are paintings and over 5,000 are works on paper, including photographs. The Collection includes 845 sculptures and 113 audiovisual works.
Since 1989 the Arts Council Collection has been managed by the Southbank Centre, as part of its visual arts programme which includes the Hayward Gallery.
Pieces from the collection are available for both short-term and long-term loans for exhibitions organised by other institutions and publicly funded bodies.
The Arts Council Collection also has an ongoing programme to create digital images of its artworks.
Arts Council Film Collection
The Arts Council Film Collection is a national collection of arts films. It includes approximately 400-500 documentary and performance films funded or co-funded by the Arts Council between 1953, and 1998.
These films were commissioned to provide an educational service, by providing profiles of artists and offering insights into contemporary arts and historical collections.
Overall, the collection provides a narrative of the arts in post-war Britain, from studies of key figures like Francis Bacon or Henry Moore through to a later emphasis on Black and minority ethnic artists and the emergence of modern and contemporary dance. Later productions were co-commissioned with Channel 4 Television and with the BBC.
The collection also includes films that document particular Art movements that have continued to influence contemporary British art such as Surrealism, Dada, Futurism, Kinetic art, the ‘Independent Group’ and profiles of the first YBA.
The British Film Institute holds Digibeta masters of the collection. A partnership with the University of Westminster (with funds from the Arts & Humanities Research Council) enabled the digitisation of the collection – including the restoration of some films. The online collection, known as Arts on Film, is available to the higher education sector.
Restored digital copies of all the films in the collection are stored at the National Film and TV Archive of the British Film Institute.
Arts Council Poetry Collection
The Arts Council Poetry Collection was founded by the Arts Council in 1953 and forms the content of the Saison Poetry Library based at London’s Southbank Centre since 1988.
As with the Arts Council Collection, it is a living archive, constantly adding to its 100,000 items of published books and audio titles. Its focus is on all poetry titles published in the UK from 1912 onwards with a representation of work from other countries, including work in parallel text and translation.
Arts Council Music Archive
As with the Poetry Collection, the Arts Council music archive is a collection of sheet music and recordings representing contemporary music commissions by the Arts Council since 1960. The collection is an archive of over 40,000 scores and manuscripts from the past thirty years but it also encompasses music and sound from the earlier 20th century, stretching back to 1900. It contains both published and unpublished works, including many pieces that are out of print or hard to obtain and is managed by Sound and Music, the national agency for the development of contemporary music.
The collection can be explored online through a searchable catalogue. More than 2,500 full scores and score extracts are available to view, alongside 1,000 audio samples.