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Revealed: Government Art Collection

Revealed: Government Art Collection

Location: Birmingham Museum

17th November 2012 - 24th February 2013

Revealed brings together a diverse selection of nearly 200 works of art, ranging from the historical to the contemporary, which form part of the Government Art Collection.

The exhibition will be the first time that these outstanding works, usually displayed in British Government buildings across the world, have been brought together. Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery has been chosen as the first venue outside London to display this intriguing exhibition.

The fascinating selections for the exhibition have been made by well-known people and groups including artist Cornelia Parker, historian and cultural commentator Simon Schama, politicians including Lord Mandelson and Lord Boateng, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and staff from 10 Downing Street.

At Work

This section presents works chosen by public figures who have worked or lived alongside the art in roles ranging from British High Commissioner to South Africa to Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service. Highlights include a 16th-century portrait of Queen Elizabeth I and L.S. Lowry’s Lancashire Fair: Good Friday, Daisy Nook (1946), recently shown at 10 Downing Street. 

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

Leading British artist Cornelia Parker has selected works and arranged them by colour, making a playful reference to the colours associated with political parties. Her colour spectrum ranges from the bright yellow of Martin Creed’s neon sculpture THINGS, (2000), to the royal blue background in Andy Warhol’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, (1985).

Image: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom by Andy Warhol. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London 2012.

Travelling Light

Historian Simon Schama selected works of art from the Collection that explore ideas of travel. His choice includes the 1814 portrait of the Romantic poet and famous traveller, Lord Byron, by Thomas Phillips and Edward Lear’s painting View of Beirut (c.1861).

George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron Byron (1788-1824) poet by Thomas Phillips.

12 from No10

Non-political staff working at 10 Downing Street, such as David, the Facilities Manager and Margaret and Mary, the cleaners, were invited by the Government Art Collection to select work that has been shown in this historic building over the years. Their choices included the 1836 portrait of Lord Byron’s daughter and mathematician, Ada Lovelace, by Margaret Carpenter and videos by the artistic duo Wood & Harrison.

Commissions: Now and Then

The Government Art Collection began to commission works of art directly from artists over 60 years ago. This display includes commissions such as L.S. Lowry’s painting recording Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation procession in 1953 and Catherine Yass’ colour transparencies of the British Embassy in Paris in the day and evening light (1998–99). 

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