The Contemporary Art Society launches ‘Great Works’ a scheme to distribute great British contemporary art

Great Works, a new scheme from The Contemporary Art Society (CAS) was launched today at Anthony Gormley’s Studio in Kings Cross, it aims to address the absence in museums across the UK of works by British contemporary artists who have established international reputations over the last 20 years.

launch of Great Works, a new scheme launched by The Contemporary Art Society (CAS) at Anthony Gormley Studio
Anthony Gormley, Caroline Douglas, Director of the CAS, Keith Vaz culture secretary at Launch of Great Works Photo: Mark Westall

Outside Tate, the British Council, Arts Council and Government Art Collections, there are very few or no works by many leading British-based artists such as Sarah Lucas, Mark Wallinger, Rachel Whiteread and Wolfgang Tillmans. It is increasingly clear that as the market rises exponentially, museums across the country are struggling to collect the work of living artists of established international reputation.

With generous support from the Sfumato Foundation, a new Great Works award will be established which will enable one major work by a leading British artist to be purchased each year for a UK museum or gallery. The 69 museums across the UK that make up the CAS’s Museum Membership will be eligible to apply for the award, the majority of which are outside London.

The winning museum will be asked to make a strong case for how an acquisition of this scale would benefit the institution in relation to their audiences, scholarship and profile of the museum. In particular, the successful applicant will make the case for the acquisition of work by an artist with a substantial connection to the museum’s existing collections, city or region.
The deadline for applications will be the end of February 2016 and the successful applicant informed in March 2016. The work acquired will go on show to the public at the winning museum in 2016/17.

Caroline Douglas, Director of the CAS:

“Collecting the art of our time is the lifeblood of a museum and it has now become practically impossible for many museums in the UK to do so without philanthropic support. It is particularly important because contemporary art appeals to young people and is often the way that they are introduced to our great museum collections.”

For over 100 years the CAS has channeled philanthropic support of contemporary art to museums the length and breadth of the country. In addition to landmark gifts to Tate that have included Picasso, Matisse, Anthony Caro and Damien Hirst, the CAS has a track record of substantial support to regional museums: CAS gifted a major painting by Francis Bacon to Huddersfield in the mid-40s, an installation by Olafur Eliasson to Eastbourne in the late 90s and most recently donated a work by rising star Hito Steyerl to GOMA in Glasgow, the first work by this artist to enter a public collection in this country.

Up and down the country museum collections help to define cities: the Kurt Schwitters Merzbau at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle is a case in point; Birmingham is famous for its world class collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Derby for the work of the first painter of the spirit of the industrial revolution, Joseph Wright of Derby; the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool has collected many outstanding works through its John Moores painting prize, the SNGMA in Edinburgh is notable for its collection of British and European Surrealism. Great works make for destination museums, and contemporary art in particular connects people to the culture of their own time. Great Works is generously supported by the Sfumato Foundation.

www.contemporaryartsociety.org
See more exclusive photos of the Launch over on our Instagram account @FADsite

About Contemporary Art Society
The Contemporary Art Society exists to encourage an appreciation and understanding of contemporary art by a wide audience and to donate works by important and new artists to museums and public galleries across the UK.

With the help of our members and supporters we raise funds to purchase works by new artists which we give to museums and public galleries where they are enjoyed by a national audience; we broker significant and rare works of art by important artists of the twentieth century for public collections through our networks of patrons and private collectors; we establish relationships to commission artworks and promote contemporary art in public spaces; and we devise programmes of displays, artist talks and educational events.

Since 1910 we have donated over 8,000 works to museums and public galleries – from Bacon, Freud, Hepworth and Moore in their day through to the influential artists of our own times – championing new talent, supporting curators, and encouraging philanthropy and collecting in the UK.

Key Contemporary Art Society Acquisitions:

· 1917: The Contemporary Art Society gave the first Paul Gauguin, Tahitians (circa 1891) to Tate, the first work by Gauguin to enter a UK public collection
· 1928: The first Barbara Hepworth (Barbara Skeaping as she was known then) is purchased in 1928:, the Terracotta Goose – was purchased by Ernest Marsh through the Contemporary Art Society Pottery and Crafts Fund in 1928 from Beaux Arts for £15 15s
· 1933: Pablo Picasso, Flowers (1901) is gifted to Tate, it was the first work by Picasso to be acquired by Tate
· 1946: The first work by Francis Bacon is purchased, Figure Study II, for £175 and is donated to Kirklees Museums and Galleries in 1952
· 1950: Lucian Freud, Still Life with Squid and Sea Urchin (1949) is purchased in 1950 and gifted to Harris Museum in 1952. Purchased for £75
· 1965: Picasso Three Dancers gifted to Tate
· 1992: Damien Hirst, Forms Without Life (1991) is donated to Tate, the first Hirst to enter a UK public collection
· 1994: Peter Doig, Concrete Cabin (1991/2) is purchased in 1994. It is gifted to New Walk Museum & Art Gallery.
· 1999: Grayson Perry – Designer Rebellion (1999) and Video Installation (1999) were purchased in 1999 for The Potteries through the Special Collection Scheme. The first work by the artist in a UK public collection.
· 2003: Olafur Eliasson, The Forked Forest Path (1998) purchased for Towner Eastbourne in 2003, the first of his works to enter a regional UK collection.
· 2013: Lynette Yiadom Boakye (nominated for Turner Prize 2013) The work was purchased for Plymouth, To Tell Them Where It’s Got To (2013), was purchased for £5,000.
· 2015: Hito Steyerl, Abstract (2012) was purchased for the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, the first work by Steyerl to enter a UK public collection.

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper' AofC - Issue 1 Autumn 2018