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Government Art Collection exhibition opens at the Whitechapel Gallery

Full details of later displays revealed for the first time.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Full details of the first public exhibition of the Government Art Collection ever to be held in a public gallery are unveiled today, as the first of five displays opens at London’s Whitechapel Gallery

Leading contemporary artist Cornelia Parker and historian and broadcaster _Simon Schama _will curate their own displays at the gallery, choosing works from the 13,500-strong, publicly-owned collection.  Their displays will follow an exhibition of works chosen by prominent public and political figures which opens today (3 June).

The sequence of displays, revealed in full for the first time today, is:

  • 3 June - 4 September 2011: Government Art Collection: At Work.  This Display has been selected by seven public, political and diplomatic figures who have worked alongside art from the Collection in various roles, ranging from British High Commissioner to South Africa to Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service.
  • 16 September - 4 December 2011: Cornelia Parker presents her personal take on the Collection.
  • 16 December 2011 - 26 February 2012: Simon Schama_ _makes a selection highlighting the role of the Collection in cultural diplomacy.
  • 9 March - 5 June 2012: 10 Downing Street staff choose their favourite works.
  • 21 June - 2 September 2012: During the Cultural Olympiad, this display focuses on the Collection’s commissioning role, and will feature a new commissioned work of art. 

This is the first exhibition dedicated to the collection held in a public gallery in its 113 year history.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, whose selection of works forms part of the first display, said: “The Government Art Collection has a rich and fascinating history and from today visitors to the Whitechapel Gallery can begin to get a taste of its history, diversity and important role in cultural diplomacy.

“It is terrific to be one of the first people to choose works for the exhibition.  The collection does a tremendous job promoting British art, which is of great value both culturally and economically.”

For the first display, opening today, a selection of prominent public and political figures have chosen works with which they have a close connection.  They are: Lord Boateng, former Government Minister and British High Commissioner to South Africa; the Prime Minister’s wife Samantha Cameron; Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg; Lord Mandelson, former Business Secretary; Dame Anne Pringle, British Ambassador to Moscow; Sir John Sawers, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service; and Culture Minister Ed Vaizey.

The Government Art Collection showcases British art in Government buildings including Downing Street, the Home Office and British Embassies and Residences in nearly every capital city across the world.  The Collection promotes British art and culture to the world and facilitates diplomatic and cultural links by, wherever possible, selecting works of art with connections between the host country and the UK.

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Notes to editors

  1. The Government Art Collection exhibition is a collaboration between the Government Art Collection and the Whitechapel Gallery. The presentation of the Government Art Collection is part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s ongoing programme of opening up collections that are rarely seen by the public in the UK.   It follows the presentation of five displays from the British Council Collection from April 2009 - May 2010, and four displays from The D. Daskalopoulos Collection, Greece, from June 2010 - May 2011.

  2. Following the end of its run at the Whitechapel Gallery the exhibition will tour Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery and Ulster Museum in late 2012 and 2013.

  3. Further information about the Government Art Collection.

Press Enquiries: 020 7211 2210
Out of hours telephone pager no: 07699 751153
Public Enquiries: 020 7211 6000

Published 3 June 2011