The Story of the Government Art Collection

  • Bombed Downing Street

Past Exhibition

This exhibition was on 3 March- 2 September 2012

It was the cost of decoration that prompted the use of art instead of wallpapers to cover the walls of government buildings in 1899. Today the Government Art Collection is one of the most important collections of British art, with 13,500 works dating from the 16th century to the present day displayed in over 420 government buildings worldwide.

On display for the first time from the Collection’s archives are rare documents, such as papers detailing the loan of Winston Churchill’s bust to the Oval Office in Washington from 1997 to 2008, and records of paintings hung in 10 Downing Street under Prime Ministers from the first Duke of Wellington to Margaret Thatcher. A 1962 document records artist William Coldstream’s proposal that the Whitechapel Gallery hold an exhibition of the Collection, while a World War II photograph shows the bomb damage to the State Rooms at 10 Downing Street.