Since 1938 the British Council has been collecting works of art, craft and design to promote abroad the achievements of the UK's best artists, craft practitioners and designers abroad. The Collection began in the late 1930s, with a modest group of works on paper; and has now grown to a collection of more than 8,500 artworks, from paintings, prints and drawings, to photography, sculpture, multi-media and installations. The Collection has no permanent gallery and has been referred to as a 'museum without walls'.
The British Council Collection was awarded the 2001 ARCO International Prize in recognition of its contribution to ‘promote, educate and inform about contemporary art’ on an international stage. Ours is not a study collection, but a hard-working and flexible resource that introduces the achievements of successive generations of British artists to audiences worldwide.
Artworks from the Collection are used to create exhibitions for the Visual Arts' international exhibition programme, which cover both solo and solo exhibitions. Artworks may also be lent to museums and galleries in the UK and overseas, and a number of objects are placed on long loan to museums and galleries to enhance their holdings of British art. Artworks are also publicly displayed in the British Council’s teaching centres and offices in the UK and around the world.
The Visual Arts Workshop is home to the British Council Collection, but also serves as a base from which works of art are prepared for international exhibitions and loans. Our team of six fine art handlers have exceptional knowledge of how artworks travel, whether made in traditional or - more commonly - in new and unconventional materials. The Workshop staff can offer advice on all aspects of art handling, international logistics and fine art installation, including audiovisual and digital.