Acquiring a new work of art can extend a collection’s richness and depth, and cast existing holdings in a new light. Acquisitions of contemporary art often make a prime contribution to the vitality of a museum collection.
Identifying a work to bring in to the collection is only the first step in a complex process, however. Few collections have a dedicated acquisition budget - additional fundraising is the norm. This section looks at the ways in which works are acquired by collections, as well as exploring the external supporters that make acquisitions possible. These can be public quangos that direct government funds, private membership and patrons’ groups, philanthropic art collectors, even artists themselves.
Alongside funding acquisitions, some organisations make a point of supporting the professional development of curators - enabling them to travel, conduct research, extend their networks, and establish and build relationships with artists.
As we show in this section, there have been a number of different approaches to supporting public collections in Scotland: some have been strategic and systematic, others more ad hoc and responsive. Upcoming case studies will include Creative Scotland, Contemporary Art Society, The Art Fund and Outset Scotland.
Caring for Collections
Alongside support for acquisitions, this section also looks at a collection’s internal considerations of care and conservation. When a work is to be brought into a collection, the collection is pledging to look after its physical state and be guardian (to a degree) of the work’s spirit and meaning in the future. The commitment to care for and re-present at work, usually in perpetuity – is a significant financial and moral obligation.
Collection staff must anticipate, and plan for, a work’s material requirements (that means storing, transporting, displaying, conserving, loaning, reproducing etc). More profoundly, for the benefit of successors and future audiences, collections staff must record the artist's intention in some form, and capture something of the cultural and historical moment in which it was made. Conversations between curators, conservators and the artist are essential in order to understand the essence of a work, the logistics of its production, and the scenarios of display that might be part of the work's future.
Upcoming case studies include the acquisition of Claire Barclay's "Trappings" by the National Galleries of Scotland, an installation work that was commissioned for exhibition during Generation: 25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland, and which was subsequently acquired for the national collection.