National arts and culture facility to become a reality

Ambitious plans to create an arts Collection Centre in Coventry of national and international standing have moved a step closer.

The plans were first announced last year, through a unique partnership between Coventry City Council, Arts Council England’s Arts Council Collection, the British Council and Culture Coventry Trust, in collaboration with the Coventry City of Culture Trust.

This exciting development will see the city centre landmark building – formerly an IKEA store – transformed to create a multi-purpose collections and cultural facility, contributing to a lasting physical, economic and cultural legacy from Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture.

The multi-million-pound project will become home to some of the country’s greatest works of art and provide greater public access to Coventry’s own cultural and heritage collections.

The landmark project will see Arts Council England and the British Council relocate their current collections to Coventry – once the former IKEA building is redeveloped. It would set the site to become a new hub for the care and national and international distribution of their collections.

Culture Coventry Trust, which runs the iconic Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and the Coventry Transport Museum, would also take space to relocate some of the city’s collections not on display in the museums.

Arts Council England and the British Council have signed heads of terms and a collaboration agreement, a vital step in the process that will allow work to progress.

These initial legal agreements have allowed the City Council to appoint the architect for the scheme, Buttress. The firm has worked on a number of cultural projects and is excited to be involved in such a significant project with several partners.

The national Collection Centre is due to be operational in 2024.

Cllr David Welsh, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, which covers culture and the arts, said: “This is such an exciting project for our city and now we can see it gathering pace. It will create a real landmark building for the city and a lasting legacy from our year as UK City of Culture.

“It will bring jobs and skills to the city, as well as tourists and visitors, and it will give the arts a higher profile and make them more accessible to Coventry people.

“The signing of the agreement is an important step in the process and I look forward to seeing plans develop as Coventry takes its place as the home of some of the nation’s greatest works of art.”

The new site is needed as the Arts Council Collection, managed by the Southbank Centre on behalf of Arts Council England, has reached capacity across its two current collections stores.

The IKEA building offers a new modern, fit for purpose facility for the Collection’s operations, maximising efficiency in collection care.

The Arts Council Collection was founded in 1946 and is the most widely circulated national loan collection of modern and contemporary British art. With more than 8,000 works and over 1,000 loans made to venues a year, the Collection is seen by millions of people in public spaces, from galleries and museums to hospitals, libraries and universities.

Peter Heslip, Director, Visual Arts, Arts Council England said: “The Arts Council is delighted to reach this stage of the project when work can begin in earnest to design and convert the building, securing a future facility for the Art Council Collection as the leading lending collection, reaching audiences nationwide and locally from the Coventry Collection Centre.”

The British Council has also been seeking a long-term solution to its collection management requirements. Their Collection often acquires work from artists at a significant stage in their careers, enabling it to reach a global audience, through international exhibitions and partnerships. Works are lent to museums and galleries in the UK and overseas and international curators are invited to engage with the Collection, selecting works for overseas display.

Skinder Hundal, Director of Arts at the British Council said: “We are thrilled to have a new home in Coventry for our Collection.

“For over 84 years, the British Council has been collecting works of art to use in our cultural relations programmes, sharing the achievements of the very best UK-based artists with people around the world.

“Seen by over two million people a year, the vibrant variety of 20th and 21st century artworks are a unique reflection of the way we see ourselves and how we relate to others, bringing alive the shared culture and values of the UK for audiences globally.”

Paul Breed, Chief Executive of Culture Coventry, added: “We are delighted that work on the Collection Centre is progressing well and look forward to growing this partnership, which will significantly enhance the offer at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, whilst also ensuring that our wider vehicle collection can become more accessible to the public.”