Mission Statement
The British Council Collection is designed to support stronger links between the United Kingdom and other countries, and to encourage collaboration and partnership between the UK and international institutions and artists.

Remit of the Collection
Founded in 1938, the Collection now features over 8,500 works of British art dating from the start of the twentieth century, with a focus on acquiring works post 1945 by younger and emerging artists. Artists are considered for their contribution to the development of British art rather than by nationality.

The purpose of the Collection is to provide a nucleus for international exhibitions, and for public display in British Council teaching centres and offices both overseas and in the UK. Site-specific works have also been commissioned. Works are lent to museums and galleries in the UK and overseas and some are placed on long-loan to other institutions overseas and in the UK, where their presence would both bring the work of the artist and the British Council to a wider audience.

Although the British Council receives some grant-in-aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to deliver programmes overseas, the Collection is now funded by the British Council’s own reserves. We have also received funds from the Art Fund, Channel 4, Alix Partners and other sponsors for the acquisition of major works.

The Collection is owned by the British Council. We have entered in co-ownership agreements with Tate and the Arts Council Collection in certain circumstances. 

What we purchase
Acquisitions are made to support the work of the British Council whose focus is in creating international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries. We acquire paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, moving image and new media. Since its inception the Collection has focused on the work of young and emerging artists: we rarely acquire works retrospectively.

How we purchase

The British Council Collection does not accept unsolicited submissions of work. Acquisitions are overseen by an Acquisitions Advisory Committee Steering Group comprising 3-6 external members appointed by open submission and chaired by the Director Visual Arts, who meet quarterly. The Committee must consider the appropriateness of artworks under consideration in relation to Visual Arts' team exhibition programme and the British Council estate.

Members of the Acquisitions Advisory Committee Steering Group are appointed for one year. Vacancies are advertised on the British Council Jobs website.

Our current Acquisitions Advisory Committee Steering Group consists of:

  • Alfredo Cramerotti, Director MOSTYN, Llandudno
  • Dr Cliff Lauson, Senior Curator, Hayward Gallery, London
  • Deborah Robinson, Head of Exhibitions, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall
  • Melanie Keen, Director of Iniva, London
  • Sam Thorne, Director of Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham
  • Simon Groom, Director, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh


  • The British Council Collection is not a museum or study collection, and no attempt has been made to form a comprehensive collection of British art post-1900;
  • As the Collection is toured overseas practical considerations need to be kept in mind. Size and media are major limitations. For examples, materials that cannot be easily imported into certain countries or large works that cannot be packed down to fit into aircraft/trucks. Cultural considerations need to be considered for exhibitions happening in some regions of the world.
  • We are guided by CITES and 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970.
  • We accept that some works will have a limited lifespan due to the nature of the media employed by the artist. The acquisition of such works is made after consultation with the artist and appropriate conservators so that suitable arrangements can be made for the display, care and storage of such works to encourage their longevity and prove their usefulness and value for money.
  • We only acquire works by artists with some exhibition history; we do not generally acquire works from degree shows.

The British Council has disposed of works through sale, auction, presentation and exchange. These works have either been outside the stated remit of the Collection, or have been duplicate copies of prints. There is no intention to make further disposals.

All gifts are considered in the same manner as proposed purchases, and their acquisition is dependent on suitability and appropriateness for our work and the agreement of the Acquisitions Advisory Committee Steering Group.

The British Council Collection is currently not eligible to acquire works under this scheme.