The 1950s: A celebration of Britain's best
By the 1950s, the Arts Council had almost doubled its reach. The Arts Council expanded from funding 46 organisations in 1945 to 92 in 1955. Its programmes were greatly appreciated by a public that was keen to preserve the best of British culture, after seeing it threatened by the Second World War. The Arts Council was instrumental in organising the 1951 Festival of Britain, and many of the works from the Festival were added to the Arts Council's collections.
As early as 1949, the Arts Council had argued for a permanent, London-based home for these collections, and a space to host touring international exhibitions. In 1958, the London County Council announced its intention to build an exhibition gallery on the South Bank, which would be leased to the Arts Council at a peppercorn rent. This project became the Hayward Gallery, and was completed in 1968. That year, the Queen opened its first large-scale exhibition, a retrospective of the paintings of Henri Matisse.