The Visual Arts Library, founded in 1940, had become an important source for information on British art by the 1970s, and has continued to expand to this day. It now totals over 26,000 volumes documenting British art of all periods; the strength of the collection however, is British art from 1945 to the present.

Our Holdings

While the library naturally includes books and pamphlets, the largest constituent of the collection is exhibition catalogues. The focus is principally on painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, printmaking, video, installation, performance, conceptual and media art - reflecting the holdings of the British Council Collection and our current programme of work. 

The library also has an archival collection of publications, mostly exhibition catalogues, that have been published by or supported by the British Council Visual Arts Department (or its predecessor the Fine Arts Department) as far back as the 1930s. 

Artist Files

The library contains a substantial collection of artist files, containing biographical material, press cuttings, and exhibition announcements on approximately 2000 established British artists. In addition, we hold a large collection of files that document many emerging artists, with as little as one or two items. Any artist who was born or is resident in Britain is eligible for inclusion.

Using the Library 

The Visual Arts Library is primarily for the benefit of the staff of the department and for British Council arts officers around the world. However, our catalogue is fully searchable in these pages and we are happy to assit researchers with locating materials wherever possible. We are also occasionally able to faciliatate research visits to the library by appointment.

Please direct all enquiries to