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Aims of University Art Collection

Aims of the University collection

The University Art Collection is managed by the Art Collection Committee that meets at least twice a year.  The aims of the Collection are laid down in the policy documents approved by this Committee.

The most recent formal assessment of the collection was made in a successful bid for AHRB funding in 2002.  The Collection’s consistent focus on contemporary work and the artistic quality of works makes it a significant resource for the region and, in some areas, for the nation.  One of our concerns must be to retain the overall quality of the collection and to ensure that acquisitions add to the critical mass rather than devalue it.  This is accomplished by the acquisition of works that build on and extend the strengths of the collection.  They will generally be by artists that have achieved a national profile.  The works should have a relevance to existing works in the collection and represent an important focus within the artist’s work.

Of course, the aims of a collection and its importance to the University relate mostly to what we do with the works.  Since the works exist outside a museum environment, one of our aims must be to ensure that the works make sense in the places in which they are located.  The siting of works of art across campus is a way of asserting the values of the University:

  • equality
  • aspiration
  • stimulation
  • significance
  • position at the leading edge.

The strategy to buy works that address the physical or academic landscape in which they are sited was tested in a five year phase of collecting through the Special Collections Scheme of the Contemporary Art Society funded by Arts Council England Lottery.  It has been immensely successful with the works attracting much favourable external comment as well as being a source of pride for the departments where the works are placed and we will endeavour to continue this strategy.

We aim to maintain a wide range of access strategies for the collection.  These include

  • Extended labels
  • Thematic displays
  • Virtual Gallery website
  • Campus Art page on the Intranet
  • Sculpture Trail leaflet
  • Sculpture Trail Teachers Resource Pack
  • Colour Trail Teachers’ Resource Pack
  • Tours for schools, staff, external groups
  • Displays within the Mead Gallery.

Relevant extracts from policy documents

 1.         Statement of Purpose

1.1     The collection of works of art of the University of Warwick demonstrates the institution’s support of contemporary culture and, in particular, of young professionals working at the leading edge of their field.  The ethos behind the collection is to introduce contemporary art to the places where people work, study and relax and this reflects Warwick’s determination to provide not only an attractive environment but one that is stimulating.  The education and interpretation programmes that support the collection are open to everyone and contribute to lifelong learning as well as to the resources offered by the University to the schools and colleges across the region.

5          Acquisition

5.1     The major purpose of an acquisitions policy is to ensure that the growth of collections is in harmony with the mission, goals, resources, and priorities of the museum. 

5.2     The purpose of adding to the collection of the University of Warwick is to ensure that the collection retains a sense of contemporary art production in Britain, that a broad context for the existing works in the collection is maintained and that there are works to fill the new buildings that are completed on campus.

5.3     The University Collection focuses on modern and contemporary work.  There will be no competition with either the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry or the Royal Pump Rooms Gallery in Leamington Spa for the acquisition of historical work.  Leamington Spa collects contemporary work with a medical context.  Discussions will be held with their Senior Curator before any acquisitions for installation in the University’s medical school are finalised.   Birmingham City Art Gallery and Museum have a focus of collecting contemporary abstract painting and we inform each other of our purchases.

5.5     In sympathy with influencing factors that formed the Collection, the University focuses its acquisitions on work by artists living, working or showing in this country, who receive some direct benefit from the purchase of their work.  Occasionally, works by artists who are already dead but which have some resonance with the collection will be acquired.  The limited acquisitions budget is not used to buy works to ‘fill gaps’ in the Collection but to concentrate on the present and the future.

5.6     The works within the Collection are integral to the life and purpose of the University and their display around the campus is essential. As they are not segregated in a climate-controlled environment, as in a gallery, we can only acquire artwork that is not unduly light or environmentally sensitive.  This precludes the collection of watercolours and textiles.  Work that suggests it could require high levels of conservation in the future will be avoided.