19/20 Acquisitions Announced

30 July 2020

We are delighted to unveil today the full list of 38 works by 21 artists that have been acquired for the nation in 2019/20, funded by the National Lottery. The Arts Council Collection continue to support and promote British art and artists by buying their work at an early or critical stage in their career, making it immediately available, on loan, to the nation’s museums and public institutions including schools, universities, hospitals and charitable associations. 

Several works acquired this year reflect on themes of climate change and the current rate of destruction of our environment. Alberta Whittle (b.1980) was born in Barbados, her work frequently reflects on the legacies of slavery, colonialism and the current climate crisis. At the time Whittle began making the video work acquired by the Collection between a whisper and a cry (film still pictured), 2019 the Caribbean had experienced three consecutive years of devastating hurricanes and storms and the work takes this as its starting point. Other works that reflect on humanity’s impact on nature are the bronze sculptures acquired by Grace Schwindt part of her investigation into the fragility of the body in relation to a world driven by capitalist motivations. 

The new acquisitions include works by a number of early career artists including Emma Talbot who was recently awarded the prestigious Max Mara Prize 2020. Emma Talbot’s practice spans drawing, painting, installation and sculpture. Her work is often made up of autobiographical imagery, and tends to reflect on the difficulties of contemporary life, interwoven with vibrant patterns and motifs. Her painting on silk, acquired by the collection, The Mountain, Time After Time (pictured), 2016 is an honest reflection on the relationship between Talbot and her teenage son. 

Artist Emma Talbot said about her works being added to the Collection:

“Inclusion in the Arts Council Collection warrants an acknowledgement of my practice that is meaningful to me. It is great to have my work in the company of major artworks in such an exciting collection, especially with the knowledge that the work now has the potential to be seen by such a wide audience.”


Among the acquisitions there are works which will soon be on view in galleries across the countryNew acquisitions by Jessie Flood-Paddock (pictured), Shelagh Cluett and Grace Schwindt will feature in the Arts Council Collection’s latest touring exhibition Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945. The exhibition will launch at Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Spring 2021 before embarking on a nationwide tour.  

The Collection aims to reach audiences and support artists working outside of London, and in the past year six studio visits have taken place with artists based in Essex and Suffolk. As a result of these visits, Emily Richardson’s Over the Horizon, 2012 was purchased. The work takes its name from a failed radar system which was developed on Orford Ness in Suffolk, UK during the Cold War. The building that once housed it and its field of aerials are now used to broadcast the BBC World Service to Europe. Through photographs and sound the artist explores the memory of a place, the remnants of history and evidence of stories true or rumoured.

We are delighted to have received support from Art Fund this year to acquire Warrender, 2016 by Alison Watt. Born in Scotland in 1965, Watt’s work often interrogates the genre of still life, specifically the technique of trompe-l’oeil. Warrender, 2016 depicts a sheet of crisp white folded paper. While it initially appears to be monochrome, closer inspection reveals it to be full of delicate modulations of colour and light, articulated through Watt’s carefully worked surface. 

The Arts Council Collection : 19/20 Acquisitions Announced
The Arts Council Collection : 19/20 Acquisitions Announced

Arts Council Collection has acquired six works on paper by Clifton Wright following a visit to Intoart, a south London studio championing the work of artists with learning disabilities. Wright has pursued portraiture for over a decade, working in response to family albums, media images, exhibition documentation and characters from science fiction and popular culture. The faces in his drawings are often woven into and entangled with abstract patterns; his works Minotaur (pictured) and Borrowed Picasso Portrait, both 2017, are made in response to Picasso’s cubist style.

Additionally, the estates of artists Edward Allington, Duncan Newton and Partou Zia gifted works to the Collection. Cumbrian Edward Allington (1951 – 2017) was fascinated by the presence of classical forms in everyday life, such as fragments of artefacts displayed in museums or kitsch reproductions of antiques. Allington generously donated two sculptures and an ink drawing to the Collection. Partou Zia’s (1958 - 2008) estate donated two works on canvas to the Collection. Zia’s otherworldly paintings are a form of storytelling and they feature evocative motifs and symbols including lovers, sleepers, dreamers and readers, placed in alluring interiors or luminous landscapes. Duncan Newton’s Trigon, 1999 and Thursday, 2001 were gifted to the Collection from his experimental series Abstract Pictures (1999–2002). His work is derived through a process of trial, error and adaptation before it arrives at a final resolution – which is in fact a deliberate irresolution.

Works from the Collection – spanning video, photography, performance, installation, painting, computer animation and sculpture – are lent to galleries and public institutions throughout the country. In 2019–20, 1,249 works from the Collection were shown in 99 different galleries and museums across the UK and internationally, reaching an audience of 1,601,605 people. The newly acquired works are all available to be lent to the nation with immediate effect. 

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, said: 
“These are important and impressive acquisitions for the Arts Council Collection. Their inclusion in a national collection will provide many opportunities to present the work of an exciting and diverse range of artists to audiences across the country.”

Recommendations to purchase innovative works of art that reflect artistic practice in Britain today are made by a changing group of external advisors to the Arts Council Collection Acquisitions Committee. For 2019–20 they were: Ryan Gander, artist; Helen Nisbet, Curator and Artistic Director, Art Night; Sally Shaw, Director, Firstsite and Fatoş Üstek, Director, Liverpool Biennial.

The Chair of the Acquisitions Committee for 2019– 20 was Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England. The three permanent members of the Acquisitions Committee are: the Director of Arts Council Collection; Peter Heslip, Director, Visual Arts, Arts Council England and Ralph Rugoff, Director, Hayward Gallery, London.


The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.