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The First Five Years

06 Aug 2014, by Anthony d'Offay

Now in its sixth year, ARTIST ROOMS On Tour has been visited by more than 30 million people in over 66 museums and galleries across the United Kingdom. The initiative was founded by Anthony d’Offay with three main principles: that it is experienced through the framework of monographic exhibitions and displays; shared with museums and galleries across the United Kingdom; and used to reach audiences of young people, thereby inspiring future generations. The ARTIST ROOMS collection came to Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in 2008, through the generosity of Anthony d'Offay. In the first post on our new blog, Anthony reflects on the first five years and the collection’s continued growth.

Below this you can watch a film about one of the recent touring exhibitions - ARTIST ROOMS Sol LeWitt at Turner Contemporary, Margate. The film looks at the learning programme and activities that took place to accompany the display of LeWitt's Wall Drawing #1136.

Martin Creed 'Work No. 944'

We have in this country a gift beyond price: the museums are free, unlike any other country in the world.

As a child I was able to sit quietly in New Walk Museum & Art Gallery in Leicester and fall in love with great paintings by the German Expressionists, Stanley Spencer and Francis Bacon. The museum was for me an idyll: it taught me how to find peace, and how to begin to understand the world.

We all have a responsibility to ensure that life-changing works of art remain freely accessible to young people. The ARTIST ROOMS collection of Post War and Contemporary Art significantly enhanced the national collection while ensuring that the most important work remains available to the British public free of charge. Furthermore, the ARTIST ROOMS touring programme aims to ensure that these great works travel to every part of the United Kingdom, from the Outer Hebrides to the Isle of Wight.

The collection is put together in the form of “rooms” dedicated to showing the work of a single artist in depth. This comprises over 200 works by Andy Warhol; 100 drawings by Joseph Beuys; world beating collections of Diane Arbus, Robert Mapplethorpe and August Sander; masterpieces by Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, Alex Katz, Sol LeWitt, Vija Celmins, Dan Flavin, Jeff Koons, Robert Therrien, Bruce Nauman, Jannis Kounellis, Douglas Gordon, Don McCullin, Ron Mueck, Damien Hirst and Richard Long.

Recent additions to the collection include five rooms of sculpture by the great Louise Bourgeois, and the gift of an entire room by Martin Creed. Martin’s extraordinary generosity is only the latest example of the artists’ commitment to the principles of ARTIST ROOMS. I must take this opportunity to thank all those artists, their friends and families and all of those who continue to work to make ARTIST ROOMS an extraordinary success.

I remember years ago in Perth the curator standing up at a special event I attended with Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund: “NEVER” she said, with tears in her eyes, “…did I believe I should live to see an Andy Warhol exhibition HERE in our museum!” That, in brief, is what ARTIST ROOMS was founded to achieve.

Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #1136 was installed across two walls of Turner Contemporary's Clore Learning Centre as part of ARTIST ROOMS On Tour. We look at how this evocative, colourful installation inspires the creativity of local audiences of all ages.