Press release

Public, political and diplomatic figures select works from the Government Art Collection for Whitechapel Gallery exhibition

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

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and others visit first ever public exhibition of the Government Art Collection at the Whitechapel.

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Prime Minister’s wife Samantha Cameron, Lord Mandelson and the British Ambassador to Moscow are among the high profile figures to select work for the first ever public exhibition of the Government Art Collection, opening at the Whitechapel Gallery on 3 June 2011.

Highlights from the Collection will be shown in a series of five successive displays, marking the first time the collection has been shown in a public gallery in its 113 year history. It is part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s ongoing programme of opening up collections that are rarely seen by the public in the UK and will be free to attend.

The diverse nature of the Collection and its role promoting British culture on the world stage is the subject of a total of five displays at the Whitechapel Gallery.

The first display, from 3 June - 4 September 2011 is chosen by high profile figures that have a close connection with the works.

The seven selectors 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 * Culture Minister Ed Vaizey

Key works include Lancashire Fair: Good Friday, Daisy Nook, a masterpiece by the famous Northern English artist L.S. Lowry, selected by Samantha Cameron; Peas are the New Beans by Bob and Roberta Smith, a humorous comment on accountancy selected by Lord Boateng; and Queen Elizabeth I, an enticing historical portrait by an unknown artist, selected by Lord Mandelson.

Staff who carry out a wide range of roles at Downing Street will be involved in the selection of works for a further display. Their close proximity to the art on show at the heart of Government will provide a unique perspective.  

The Collection has more than 13,500 works dating from the 16th century to the present day, shown in over 400 embassies and government buildings worldwide. 

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said

“The Government Art Collection is a unique cultural resource that has, on a relatively modest budget, built up a collection that holds its own on the world art stage. 

“Thousands of works are already on display around the world and are regularly seen by the numerous visitors to Government buildings, but this is the first time that some of the many highlights have been brought together in one place for the benefit of the wider public. 

“I have no doubt that this will be a must-see exhibition, and the carefully choreographed series of displays at the Whitechapel Gallery is sure to draw art lovers from around the world.”

The Government Art Collection and the Whitechapel Gallery will present 4 further displays on the following themes:

  • a leading contemporary artist presents their personal take on the Collection (16 September - 4 December 2011)
  • a cultural and political commentator makes a selection highlighting the role of the Collection in cultural diplomacy (16 December 2011 - 26 February 2012)
  • staff from10 Downing Street choose their favourite works (9 March - 5 June 2012)
  • the Government Art Collection commissions a new work of art for the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition to be displayed alongside previous commissions during the Cultural Olympiad (21 June - 2 September 2012)

High profile selectors for each of these displays will be announced in the coming months. 

The displays will be shown in the dedicated Collections Gallery.

Notes to Editors

  • 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 selecting works of art with connections between the host country and the UK.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • The Whitechapel Gallery’s programme of collection displays is supported by specialist insurer Hiscox.

Visitor Information

The Government Art Collection
3 June 2011 - 2 September 2012
Admission free.
Opening times: Tuesday - Sunday, 11am - 6pm, Thursdays, 11am - 9pm.
Whitechapel Gallery, 77 - 82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX.
Nearest London Underground Station: Aldgate East, Liverpool Street, Tower Gateway DLR. T + 44 (0) 20 7522 7888

Press information

For press enquiries about the Collection please contact the DCMS press office:

Simon Oliver on 020 7211 6269 or email

Sandra McKay on 020 7211 6267 or email

For further press information regarding the exhibitions please contact the Whitechapel Gallery press office:

Rachel Mapplebeck on 020 7522 7880, 07811 456 806 or email 

Elizabeth Flanagan on 020 7522 7871 or email

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