Arts Council Collection

The Arts Council Collection supports artists in this country through the purchase and display of their work. Founded in 1946, the Collection operates as a ‘museum without walls’. It is the largest national loan collection of modern and contemporary British art and includes fine  examples of the UK’s  most prominent artists. It is the most widely circulated of all of Britain’s national collections and can be seen in exhibitions across the UK and abroad. Unique among national collections, the Arts Council Collection also lends to public buildings across the country, including schools, universities, hospitals and charitable associations.

The Arts Council Collection is managed by the Southbank Centre, London, on behalf of Arts Council England and is based at the Hayward Gallery in London and at Longside, Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The base at Longside enables the Arts Council Collection team to extend its sculpture conservation and research programmes, and to increase public access to the sculpture collection through increased lending and exhibition initiatives. A diverse and stimulating range of exhibitions from the Collection can be seen in the adjacent Longside Gallery.

Visit to find out more about us and to search our holdings online, or follow us on Twitter @A_C_Collection.

View the collection online 

Arts Council Film Collection

The Arts Council Film Collection includes approximately 450 documentary and performance films funded or co-funded by the Arts Council between 1953 and 1998. It is a collection of national and international significance.

The collection provides a narrative of the arts in post-war Britain, from studies of key figures like Francis Bacon or Henry Moore through to a later emphasis on Black and minority ethnic artists and the emergence of modern and contemporary dance. The collection also includes films that document particular art movements that have continued to influence contemporary British art such as Surrealism, Dada, Futurism, the Independent Group and the ‘YBAs’ (Young British Artists). Many of the later films were co-commissioned with Channel 4 Television and with the BBC. 

In 2007 a partnership with the University of Westminster (with funds from the Arts and Humanities Research Council) enabled the digitisation of the collection – including the restoration of some films. The online collection, known as Arts on Film, is available to the higher education sector. Restored digital copies of all the films in the collection are stored at the National Film and TV Archive of the British Film Institute (BFI). 

In February 2014 the ownership of the Arts Council's Film Collection was transferred to the BFI where it will be maintained as a living collection, available to all to access and enjoy. Requests to screen films from the collection should be made to indicating that your query relates to a title from the Arts Council Film Collection.

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Arts Council Poetry Collection

The Arts Council Poetry Collection was founded by the Arts Council in 1953 and forms the content of the Saison Poetry Library based at London’s Southbank Centre since 1988.  

As with the Arts Council Collection, it is a living archive, constantly adding to its 100,000 items of published books and audio titles. Its focus is on all poetry titles published in the UK from 1912 onwards with a representation of work from other countries, including work in parallel text and translation.

Visit the Poetry Library website  

Arts Council Music Archive

The Arts Council music archive is a collection of sheet music and recordings representing contemporary music commissions by the Arts Council since 1960. The collection is an archive of over 40,000 scores and manuscripts which also encompasses music and sound from the earlier 20th century, stretching back to 1900. It contains both published and unpublished works, including many pieces that are out of print or hard to obtain and is managed by Sound and Music, the national agency for the development of contemporary music. 

The collection can be explored online through a searchable catalogue. More than 2,500 full scores and score extracts are available to view, alongside 1,000 audio samples.

Search the collection online