Events and Activities

Find out what's going on at the Government Art Collection

New Advisory Committee members

We are delighted to welcome Susan Collins and Clare Lilley as two new independent members, to the Advisory Committee on the Government Art Collection. The Chairman and Members of the Advisory Committee meet three times a year to approve the acquisition and commissioning of works of art and advise on the stewardship of the Collection. Members are not remunerated.

Susan Collins is one of the UK's leading artists working with digital media. Born in London, she was trained at the Slade School of Fine Art and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago as a Fulbright Scholar.

She is an artist who works across public, gallery and online spaces employing transmission, networking and time as primary materials, with most of her work made in response to specific sites and situations. Exhibiting and lecturing widely internationally, key works include: In Conversation (1997) which provided a live link between the street, the gallery and the internet; the BAFTA nominated Tate in Space for Tate Online (2002); live pixel-by-pixel transmissions from remote landscapes including Fenlandia (2004), Glenlandia (2005) and Seascape 2009); Love Brid (2009), a short film for Animate Projects; Underglow (2005), a network of illuminated drains for the City of London, and Brighter Later (2013), a site specific light installation for the Radcliffe Observatory, Oxford driven by live weather data.

Collins is currently the Slade Professor of Fine Art and Director of the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL where she established the Slade Centre for Electronic Media in Fine Art (SCEMFA) in 1995.

Clare Lilley is Director of Programme at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which won the prestigious Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2014. Clare has lead responsibility for exhibitions and projects, the collection, and public engagement. She has played an integral role in reuniting and restoring 500 acres of an 18th century estate, the development of contemporary galleries, and an exceptional artistic programme, which combine to make Yorkshire Sculpture Park a leading international cultural organisation.

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She has published and curated projects with many artists, including Ai Weiwei, Fiona Banner, James Lee Byars, Shirin Neshat, Jaume Plensa, Yinka Shonibare, William Turnbull, and James Turrell. Since 2012 Clare has curated Frieze Sculpture Park, London and in 2013 co-curated William Turnbull at Chatsworth House. In 2015 she is curating Jaume Plensa at San Giorgio Maggiore for the Venice Biennale.

Clare is a member of the Women Leaders in Museums Network and a Board member of Site Gallery, Sheffield. She has been a panellist in public debates, conducted in-conversations with a number of artists, and has presented papers on contemporary and public art in Europe, China and Ukraine. Throughout her work, Clare is committed to engaging diverse audiences in extraordinary and meaningful art and to supporting artists at all stages of their careers.

An Eyeful of Wry

In the GAC's viewing space at Tottenham Court Road, there is a new display of works of art from the Collection that highlight a wry sense of humour. Works that use wit and have a sense of the absurd have helped to shape the Government Art Collection, from some of its earliest historical paintings and prints to the more diverse, complex and playful works of today's artists. An Eyeful of Wry takes a broad view of the Collection, arranging 18th century prints alongside prints, cartoons, sculptures, photographs and a video.

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There are works on paper that use text in a humorous way including Ian Hamilton Finlays' punning Catameringue; Mark Wallinger's sign declaring his innocence for a crime he has not committed and Cornelia Parker's absent print surrounded by red dots (above). Both the artist as joker and the viewer's position as sharp-eyed observer are explored – in works that include a melodramatic scene of blind man's buff, a bent coat hanger, a snaking tube sculpture, a pianola and a sign declaring that objects have been removed for study purposes.There is limited availability to see the display, An Eyeful of Wry – to book please go to our Visit us page.

New Display

A new display was installed recently in Amber Rudd's office, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Works by the women artists Gillian Ayres and Prunella Clough were selected for her office as the Minister is passionate about women's rights and the need for positive female role models. Abstract painters Clough (1919–1990) and Ayres (born 1930) were part of a generation of women artists who came to prominence in the 1950s and who only really got the attention they deserved in the later stages of their careers – an exhibition of Ayers' works on paper touring the UK to great acclaim in 2012–13. After seeing their work installed, Amber Rudd commented 'I'm delighted to showcase the excellent work of Gilliam Ayres and Prunella Clough – two female British artists who deserve recognition.'

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Display at the International Festival for Business, Liverpool

On 9 June 2014, the GAC presented a display of video art at the British Business Embassy, St George's Hall, Liverpool as part of the International Festival for Business. Based around themes of movement and transport each video reflects a different but playful approach to a journey.

For their work Ladder, Handle/Rope, Map, Lean, Slide and Platform (2000–2002) artists John Wood and Paul Harrison perform a series of controlled movements in a blank white room. Their interaction with the household objects they use becomes almost slapstick.

In A Letter to an Unknown Person No.3 (1998) Rachel Lowe attempts to draw a moving landscape on a car window. A sequence of images unfolds and Lowe's frenzied drawings start to resemble an unknown script. This work articulates the impossible drive to capture a fleeting moment.

Simon Faithfull 0°00 Navigation (2009) documents a journey made along the Greenwich Meridian. Starting with a figure emerging from the sea at Peace Haven, Hampshire, holding a GPS device he travels north along the 0°00 longitudinal line overcoming all obstacles.

On loan to the GAC courtesy of the artist. Image: Courtesy Simon Faithfull

Matt Calderwood's work Pole (2000) starts with a man walking through the shot with a scaffolding pole on his shoulder. He plants the pole, climbs up and disappears. The pole slowly moves out of shot too. A witty take on the Indian rope trick, Calderwood often uses everyday objects and materials to create gravity-defying works of art.

On loan to the GAC courtesy of the artist and Wilkinson Gallery, London. Image: Courtesy Matt Calderwood/Wilkinson Gallery

The display at St George's Hall, Liverpool follows previous major displays of contemporary art organised by the Government Art Collection for the G8 Summit at Lough Earne, Northern Ireland in June 2013 and for the British Business Embassy event at Lancaster House, London in July/August 2012.

Animal Magic

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Marcus Coates is an artist attuned to the animal and bird world. In previous works such as Journey to the Lower World (2004) he wore a deer's skin to talk to residents in a condemned Liverpool tower block. In 2012, he put on a silver suit topped with a stuffed horse head to visit residents on the south London Heygate Estate being scheduled for demolition.

We recently acquired a series of animal and bird prints by Coates and he came to the GAC headquarters in January to prepare the prints for display Entitled Ritual for Reconciliation, these arresting, close-up images of a Kestrel, an Ostrich, a Galapagos Land Iguana, a Sally Lightfoot Crab and a Bighorn Sheep are presented on a type of rice paper. Before these works go on display, however, Coates subjects them to a forceful procedure by scrunching each image into a fist-size ball and then opening it out to reveal all the creases and crevasses.

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Witnessing this procedure is strange to say the least. As Coates himself pointed out it is a ritual that feels almost heretical in terms of negating or degrading the work. The results however are strangely beautiful – not only are these prints given a new life but they assume a topographical almost sculptural form. Coates sees this series of animal works as being about portraiture. He feels that it is very human to see ourselves reflected in wildlife and that wildlife photography tends to fetishize this relationship, because that is the relationship we humans want to see.

With Ritual for Reconciliation and a similar series entitled Strategy for Conflict Resolution Coates sees his work as a form of mediation between the human and animal kingdom, while rejecting the idea that humans are the most important species with the highest status.

Lunchtime tours of the GAC

The GAC will be running midday tours for people interested in visiting our premises to see what goes on behind the scenes of the Collection. These tours will generally be during the last week of the month and either on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. We can accommodate a maximum of 20 people on each tour – and each person will be able to book up to four places.

To sign up for a lunchtime tour go to our Visit Us page.

Vanessa Bell's Byzantine Lady Goes to School

© Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Garnett

For one day only, as part of a Public Catalogue Foundation/ BBC initiative, the GAC lent one of its paintings to a south London school. Security was paramount as Vanessa Bell's striking portrait of a Byzantine Lady was taken to Addey and Stanthorpe secondary school in Deptford.

"Everyone was like, 'Oh my god, oh my god!'," said Holly, 11, as her classmates swarmed around the portrait. 'This painting is worth an awful lot of money,' declared their teacher Matthew Teager to the wide-eyed pupils filing past the drama studio.

Pupils drew their own versions of the portrait. They also learnt about the artist Vanessa Bell, sister of author Virginia Woolf and member of the influential Bloomsbury Group, as well as the Byzantine Lady herself.

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The GAC curator Chantal Condron explained how the Byzantine Lady has been displayed on the walls of minister's offices and embassies, and the children wrote poems about the conversations the painting might have overheard.

For their teacher the value of the project was to bring art to children who might otherwise be unlikely to visit a gallery. “This is about inspiring a real multicultural cross-range of kids into thinking, “Actually, I can go and see that”,' he explained.

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With comments from the children like "I thought it was going to be boring but it's made learning history more interesting”, and with several wanting to become artists, there is now hope that the scheme will run again next year.

Read more on this story at the BBC website

David Verey

New Chairman of the Advisory Committee for the Government Art Collection

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David Verey CBE is the new Chairman of the Advisory Committee on the Government Art Collection (GAC) succeeding the broadcaster Julia Somerville whose ten years in post drew to a close this year and who was awarded a CBE in recognition of her time as Chairman.

While Julia Somerville was Chairman, she steered the Committee through a number of significant GAC projects, including commissions for the Home Office and Ministry of Justice; publications including Art, Power and Diplomacy, illuminating the role and history of the Collection, and the GAC's first-ever public exhibition. As a result of these initiatives, wider recognition of the Collection is greater now than at any time in its history.

The Chairman and Members of the Advisory Committee meet three times a year to approve the acquisition and commissioning of works of art and advise on the stewardship of the Collection. They are unpaid.

A Senior Adviser at Lazards & Co Ltd, David Verey is currently Chairman of the Trustees of the Art Fund. He was a Trustee of Tate from 1992 until 2004 and Chairman of the Trustees from 1998. He is also Lead Non-executive Director at DCMS.

Read more on this story at GOV.UK

Art Everywhere

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Damien Hirst's spots go viral … as part of the Art Everywhere project to put great British masterpieces on billboards and posters across the UK. Hirst's Pardaxin from the Government Art Collection was one of the 57 works of art chosen by the public to transform the landscape of Britain over a two week period in August 2013. Art Everywhere was a big hit with the public and Pardaxin itself was clocked in many different places including a car valeting centre in London's Clerkenwell.

G8 summit in Lough Erne

G8 leaders at a counter-terrorism working session at the G8 Summit, with Elizabeth Magill's work on display behind. © Crown copyright

In June this year, the GAC provided a display of paintings for the G8 summit at Lough Erne Resort in Northern Ireland. Works on display included Martin Creed's neon piece Things and Graham Crowley's super bright painting of the landscape around his studio in County Clare. Elizabeth Magill's 'Untitled' from Parlous Land 2006, a series of poetic lithographs, were chosen in part because Magill grew up in Northern Ireland and the Antrim coast has had a deep impression on her work.