Arts Council England has announced plans to mark the 70th anniversary of the Arts Council Collection, the UK’s most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

The celebrations include eight new commissions that will go on display across the UK. Artists include: John Akomfrah, Hurvin Anderson, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Ryan Gander, Mark Leckey, Katie Paterson, Heather Phillipson and Keith Piper. The works will also become a permanent part of the collection.

Venues taking part in the celebrations include: Somerset House, LondonGrundy Art Gallery, BlackpoolPlymouth Arts CentreNew Art Exchange, NottinghamLongside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Bluecoat, Liverpool.

Bristol’s Arnolfini gallery is the first to host a new commission, with John Akomfrah’s film Tropikos (2016, pictured above) currently showing alongside his 2015 work, Vertigo Sea. “I feel very honoured to have been chosen to complete a work for this unique anniversary,” said Akomfrah, describing the collection as “indispensable” and the “first-call” for many galleries and museums.

Jill Constantine, head of the Arts Council Collection, said: “The Arts Council Collection may be 70 years old but never has it felt so young, vibrant and exciting. Our 70th anniversary commissions demonstrate what we do best – putting artists at the heart of the Collection.”

Established in 1946 to promote and enrich knowledge of modern and contemporary art, the collection supports British artists and artists resident in the UK through the purchase and display of their work.

With nearly 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it provides the public with access to modern and contemporary art in the UK through long-term loans to public institutions, exhibition loans, touring exhibitions and digital and print publications.

Touring exhibitions

Two touring exhibitions will also run over the next 12 months. Drawing from Life: People on Paper, will open at The Collection in Lincoln. This drawing show will include early career works by artists including Richard Hamilton, Howard Hodgkin, Eduardo Paolozzi and Peter Blake.

A sculpture exhibition titled Night In the Museum and curated by artist Ryan Gander will take place at Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park this summer. A range of figurative sculptures will be positioned in the gallery so that they can observe major examples of modern and contemporary British art.

Commenting on the collection’s importance to artists, Gander said: “The Arts Council Collection is based on the ideal that works should be safeguarded and seen. It feels like the perfect home.”

Other artists whose work is in the collection have also been speaking about its importance. Antony Gormley said: “The Arts Council Collection remains the most important national collection of contemporary art in Britain and it is a resource for a wide-ranging set of curated exhibitions that really reach out to the whole of the nation and expose very different publics to the excitingly varied and diverse work of this country’s artists.”

Richard Deacon said entry into the Arts Council Collection has often been a vital early step in the development of artists’ careers. “In their maturity, further acquisition enriches their representation and fleshes out the collection. The collection itself is a hugely important resource and hard worked trove, accessible and well cared for, the backbone of countless marvellous exhibitions throughout the country.”

The Arts Council Collection celebrations take place at various venues throughout 2016. For full details visit:

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