Londoners may soon enjoy unprecedented access to the UK’s Government Art Collection (GAC).
Following years of government lobbying to enable access to the taxpayer-funded collection it is due to move to new premises in London, which will feature a public display space according to a spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Established in 1898, the collection of over 13,500 artworks dating from the 16th century to the present day focusses on artists with a strong connection to Britain. Works from the collection are selected for display in UK Government buildings worldwide. These include 100 offices on British soil and a further 270 offices abroad. One third of the collection is currently stored in Queen’s Yard in central London where environmental controls are said to fall below museum standards.
The plans for the new gallery are the culmination of years of efforts by government ministers to increase public engagement with the GAC. Labour shadow secretary for culture, media and sport, Michael Dugher, said in 2016 that only “a privileged few” were able to enjoy the collection as it is currently housed. In 2010, the Liberal Democrats’ general election manifesto contained a promise to facilitate “greater public use” of the collection.
Details of the new location and the timing of the move have not yet been revealed but admission is expected to be free.