The UK government’s art collection – containing some 15,000 works – is finally getting its first public exhibition space
The UK’s Government Art Collection (GAC) is to open its first public exhibition space in London. A room in its new headquarters in the old Admiralty Building, which sits between Trafalgar Square and Horse Guards Parade, has just been converted into a viewing room.
Currently open to guests only, plans are underway to allow public access to the gallery during regular hours from early next year. The GAC has long wanted to provide a small gallery to show a changing selection of its nearly 15,000 works. Notable British artists in the collection include Thomas Gainsborough, LS Lowry and Tracey Emin.
Although the main purpose of the collection is to provide works of art to UK government buildings and embassies abroad, the GAC makes a greater effort to share its works with a wider audience, particularly through loans and web access.
The GAC recently moved its offices to Old Admiralty House, next to Admiralty Arch (located astride The Mall, the arched building is currently being converted into a Waldorf Astoria hotel). Much of the Old Admiralty House has just been taken over by the Department for International Trade, but part of the ground floor is allocated to the GAC. Although the viewing room is modest in size, if it proves successful, a larger space may be sought.
The viewing room was inaugurated with the unveiling of GAC’s latest commission: a print by British sculptor and graphic designer Rachel Whiteread. Funded by the Robson Orr TenTen Award, his work Bubble reflects the impact of Covid-19, when under the UK’s lockdown system personal contact was for a time limited to those within its small ‘bubble’ of family and close friends . Whiteread describes the circles in his lithograph as suggesting traces of an invisible virus.