Supporting museums

The Art Fund supports the development of museum collections, and creates resources and opportunities for the museum professionals who care for collections and the museum audiences that encounter them.

We helped the National Gallery acquire The Wilton Diptych in 1929 © National Gallery, London

We helped the National Gallery acquire The Wilton Diptych in 1929

As well as helping museums and galleries buy individual works of art, we support the development of whole new collections and in recent years have invested almost £6 million in several unique initiatives.

We deliver our charitable programmes across three key strands – Acquisitions, Support for curators, and Public engagement:


Support for curators

Public engagement



Acquisitions funding

Since 1903 we've helped over 700 museums and galleries throughout the UK acquire thousands of great works of art from 2,000 BC to the present day for the public to enjoy. Find out how to apply or call the Programmes office for advice on 020 7225 4822.

We also regularly place gifts and bequests of art with museums. Please contact Sophie Harrison on 020 7225 4866 to find out more. Our Guide to Giving Art also explains how donors can support museums tax efficiently.
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Previous acquisitions programmes

Works from the Untitled Sugar Cane Series by Zwelethu Mthethwa bought by Bristol Museum and Art Gallery through Art Fund International © The artist

Works from the Untitled Sugar Cane Series by Zwelethu Mthethwa bought by Bristol Museum and Art Gallery through Art Fund International

Art Fund International

Encouraging a radical change in the scale of contemporary art collecting in the UK, Art Fund International was one of the most important schemes ever launched by the Art Fund. We awarded up to £5 million to five partnerships between museums and contemporary art organisations to create collections of international contemporary art. These new collections will be on display in 2013 and 2014.

Find out about the five partnerships or explore highlights from the scheme and where they've come from with our interactive map.


Thanks to £600,000 from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, we're helping seven museums and galleries across the UK develop completely new areas of collecting and build future centres of excellence. Find out more about the museums that have been awarded funding.

Testing Media

Working in partnership with the Contemporary Art Society, this new £60,000 fund has been created to help museums acquire works of contemporary art in challenging media and create conservation and management case studies which can be shared with other museums interested in collecting similar work.

Art Fund Collect

Set up in partnership with the Crafts Council in 2008, Art Fund Collect ran for six years and was a scheme which challenged curators to select a new piece of craft for their museum collection at the Collect fair. 

Hassan Hajjaj, Saida in Green, 2000 Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography at the Victoria and Albert Museum and British Museum

Hassan Hajjaj, Saida in Green, 2000

Middle Eastern Photography

Developed by the British Museum and the V&A with a grant of over £100,000, the Art Fund Collection of Middle Eastern Photography comprises of over 80 important works by Middle Eastern artists responding to the social challenges and political upheavals of the Middle East over the last 30 years.
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Support for curators

We support curators through funding research and travel, and working in partnership with museums on areas of specialist study.

The Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grants Programme

The Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grants Programme helps curators working with fine and applied art and related collections maintain and develop their specialist knowledge and expertise. The next application deadline is on 4 June for applications over £1,500, and we accept applications under this threshold at any time. Find out how to apply for a Jonathan Ruffer grant

Dr Xavier Bray from Dulwich Picture Gallery undertook research, funded by the grant, into the connections between Goya and Gainsborough. Read his curatorial blog.

Art Fund and National Gallery Curatorial Traineeships

Our curatorial trainees Helen Hillyard and Eloise Donnelly

Our curatorial trainees Helen Hillyard and Eloise Donnelly

We’ve teamed up with the National Gallery to offer two fully funded curatorial traineeships specialising in Old Master painting. Aimed at nurturing the next generation of curators, the scheme delivers practical guidance for each trainee at the National Gallery and an appointed regional museum, at which each trainee works on a specific curatorial project. The scheme lasts for 22 months, during which time the National Gallery provides mentoring and support for both trainees to work with the collections.

The second pair of trainees began their traineeships at the National Gallery in September 2013, and will move to regional partner museums in spring 2013. Helen Hillyard and Eloise Donnelly will be working on projects at Birmingham Museums Trust and York Art Gallery until July 2015. Read Helen and Eloise's blog to find out how they are getting on.

The inaugural programme saw trainees Henrietta Ward and Philippa Stephenson curate exhibitions at the programme's first two partner museums: Home, Land and Sea at Manchester Art Gallery and Divine Bodies at Laing Art Gallery, respectively.
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Previous programmes

Sotheby's Institute Course

Navigating the Art Market, developed in partnership with Sotheby's Institute of Art, was a fully funded course providing curators with a relevant, practical understanding of the workings of the art market. Please watch this space for further announcements on new courses in 2013.
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Public engagement

We help the public to make the most of the works of art that we have supported by funding tours and exhibitions, new displays and interpretation projects.

Treasure Plus

Treasure Plus is an exciting funding programme that hopes to deepen public engagement with items of treasure and related archaeological material by providing small grants of £2,000 to £10,000 for display and interpretation projects, supported by The Headley Trust.
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On tour now

#Lamentation by Grayson Perry, 2012 will tour the UK throughout 2013-14

#Lamentation by Grayson Perry, 2012 will tour the UK throughout 2013-14

We’ve also announced a tour of Jeremy Deller's Venice Biennale exhibition English Magic and following its acquisition by Tate, John Constable's Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows will on display at four UK museums during the next five years. Both schemes will begin in 2014.

The Art Fund has also funded an informal learning programme for Yinka Shonibare MBE Nelson's Ship in a Bottle acquired by the National Maritime Museum following the successful public fundraising campaign led by the Art Fund. The work has been on permanent display outside the museum’s new Sammy Ofer Wing since April 2012 and we are supporting a two-year programme of activities dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of Nelson's Ship in a Bottle, visit their website for details of what's on.

As well as providing funding for museums, we also celebrate the excellent work of museums and galleries across the country by supporting the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Yearcampaign publicly to save important works of art for UK museums, and lobby government on behalf of and in partnership with the museums sector.
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