UK Government Art Collection Finally Gets Its First Public Display Space

The UK’s Government Art Collection (GAC) containing around 15.000 works, is to open its first public display space in London.

Oct 10, 2022By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Uk Government Art Collection, new space
The entrance to the new Government Art Collection viewing gallery.


The UK Government Art Collection public space will open next year. The public space will also have a new headquarters in the Old Admiralty Building. The Old Admiralty Building lies between Trafalgar Square and Horse Guards Parade.


The GAC – A Way of Sharing History

Interior of Athens Ambassador’s residence showing the portrait of George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron Byron (1788-1824) poet by Thomas Phillips


For now, the space is open only to invited guests. Although this is the case for now, plans are underway to open the gallery to the public. From the beginning of next year, citizens will be able to see the UK Government Art Collection during regular hours. Through the opening of the new gallery, the UK wants to show its history, both at home and abroad.


“The artworks on display are one of its great attractions and points of interest. They illustrate and illuminate key moments in our shared history. They also illustrate the connections between our peoples, and showcase some outstanding artists from both countries”, says Kate Smith, British Ambassador to Greece on having art in the Residence in Athens.


4′ 33″ (Prepared Pianola for Roger Bannister) by Mel Brimfield on display as part of Ways of Seeing © Thierry Bal


British artists in the UK Government Art Collection include Thomas Gainsborough, LS Lowry and Tracey Emin. The GAC is making significant attempts to share its works with a larger audience: particularly through loans and web access, even though the collection’s primary goal is to produce artworks for UK government buildings and embassies abroad.

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The Department of International Trade has just taken over a large portion of the Old Admiralty House. Nevertheless, part of the ground floor is in the GAC’s possession. Although the Viewing Room is small, a larger location can be explored if it proves successful.


What is the UK Government Art Collection?

Dancing Columns, a sculpture by Tony Cragg, and behind Wall Drawing (for the British Embassy) by David Tremlett can be seen in the atrium at the British Embassy. Via the UK Government art collection official website.


Almost 125 years-old, the Government Art Collection holds over 14,700 works of art from the 16th century to today. Promoting British art, history and culture, it is a collection with global display.


“Artworks support cultural diplomacy in British government buildings, embassies and consulates in the UK and around the world, with works displayed in more than 365 buildings, in over 125 countries worldwide”, says the GAC’s official website.


The UK Government Art Collection promotes British art and plays a role in British cultural diplomacy. It delivers an expression of Britain’s soft power, its culture and its values. Both UK government buildings at home and abroad.


Luncheon at the British Embassy, Tokyo, 16 February 1983 by David Hockney, photo-collage © David Hockney / image: Hiroshi Sumitomo (Japan).


“The Residence is busy. We have over 10,000 people passing through each year – maybe only Paris can match that number”, says Tim Hitchens, former British Ambassador to Japan from 2012-2016 on the role of art in the Residence in Tokyo.


As a result, the variety of work is different: from conferences on nuclear demolishing to a working breakfast with Japanese CEOs.


The Collection has museum status and sits within the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Central government finances its core work. There are also particular projects jointly funded through partnerships and philanthropic support.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.