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Applying for an acquisition grant

How do I apply for a grant?

In order to apply for a grant from the Art Fund you will need to complete an application form and supply certain pieces of information. The application form is online, and you will need to register on our website to access the form.

The sections of the application include:

  • Case for acquisition
  • Details of work(s)
  • Financial details
  • Contact details

We strongly recommend all applicants to get in touch in advance with our programmes team on 020 7225 4815, to discuss any potential application. You will receive advice on our funding schemes, eligibility criteria, application deadlines and any specific application requirements, saving you a lot of time (and maybe headaches!).

Download and read our guidance for applicants. This document takes you through the application form step-by-step and includes detailed FAQs.

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How much is available? What are the size of grants that you offer?

Our acquisition programme operates three distinct grant schemes:

  • Main grants, ie grant requests of above £7,500 and/or where the total cost of the work is more than £15,000.
  • Small grants, ie grant requests of £7,500 or less where the total cost of the work is £15,000 or less.
  • Auctions, ie time-critical applications of any size for works coming up for sale at auction.

There is no minimum amount that can be applied for and there is no fixed percentage for which you can apply to the Art Fund, but we expect you to explore the possibility of applying to all appropriate sources of public funding for which you may be eligible.

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Is there any eligibility criteria?

We can assist with the purchase of extant works of art and other objects of artistic interest, dating from antiquity to the present day. Within this broad category our criteria includes:

  • Objects of national and international importance, including high-value items subject to temporary export licence deferral or being offered with tax remission.
  • Objects of significant regional interest judged to be of good museum quality.
  • Objects which will artistically enrich collections and support the expansion and development of museum collections.

Applicants must be:

  • UK public museums, galleries, historic houses, libraries and archives.
  • Open for at least half the week for at least six months of the year.
  • Fully or provisionally accredited through the Arts Council.

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Do you support commissions?

We do not usually support commissions, but can sometimes consider exceptional projects, and would encourage any applicant with a project in mind to contact us on 020 7225 4822 or email to discuss the proposal.

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When will I know if my application is successful?

  • For main grant applications you will usually be advised verbally of the decision the day after the board meeting.
  • For an application for a work at auction you will be advised of the decision the day before the sale.
  • Applications under the small grant scheme are considered as part of a rolling programme and time-frames for decisions vary depending on the specifics of the application.

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What is 'accreditation'?

The Art Fund requires all applicants to be either provisionally or fully accredited under the Arts Council England Accreditation Scheme, managed in partnership with CyMAL; Museum, Archives, Libraries Wales; Museums and Galleries Scotland and the Northern Ireland Museums Council.

The Accreditation Scheme sets nationally agreed standards for UK museums. To qualify, museums must meet clear basic requirements on how they care for and document their collections, how they are governed and managed, and on the information and services they offer to their users. There are currently just under 1,800 museums participating in the scheme, demonstrating their commitment to managing collections effectively for the enjoyment and benefit of the public.

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What is the Acceptance in Lieu scheme?

The Acceptance in Lieu scheme enables taxpayers to transfer important works of art and other important heritage objects into public ownership while paying inheritance tax, or one of its earlier forms. The taxpayer is given the full open market value of the item, which then becomes the property of a public museum, archive or library.

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Are there any terms and conditions?

All recipients of grants will be asked to sign our full grant conditions.

​To say thank you to our members and enable them to see the works of art they have helped acquire, we ask you to:

  • Give free admission to your permanent collections for National Art Pass holders.
  • Give free or half-price entry to your exhibitions.
  • Make a permanent acknowledgement of our help.
  • Collaborate on publicity and promotional work.

As you may know, the Art Fund is an independent fundraising charity. We don’t receive any state funding and instead we raise millions of pounds every year through the National Art Pass, our membership card. More than 122,000 Art Fund members currently support our charitable work.

In order to be able to continue and increase our financial support for museums and galleries we have to grow our member and supporter base. As we do not display the works of art which we have helped acquire, we rely on the support of our network of museums and galleries to help us promote our work and the National Art Pass. This is why it is so important that museums honour our conditions when they receive a grant.

Giving a grant is therefore for us is just the first step into a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship between the Art Fund and your museum. In addition to helping with acquisitions we aim to give marketing and PR support to our grantees in order to help generate additional publicity, visitors and income.

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Jonathan Ruffer curatorial grants for travel and research

What is the Jonathan Ruffer curatorial grants programme?

The programme awards travel and research grants to help curators working with fine and applied art collections maintain and develop their specialist knowledge and expertise.

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How can I apply?

Once you have read the general information about the scheme and notes on aims and eligibility and you are ready to apply, please telephone the programmes office on 020 7225 4822 for an initial discussion. Please note we will not accept any applications that have not been discussed in advance and approved for submission by the programmes office.

Following this call and approval, please download the application form and submit your completed application. We strongly recommend that you get in touch with our programmes team once again to ensure all the information has been correctly and fully received.

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Can I apply for more than one grant?

Yes. The Art Fund will accept a maximum of two applications per individual per year for any size of grant.

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What will you support under this scheme?

Applications from UK curators, scholars and researchers, individually or in partnership, to undertake travel or other activities to extend and develop their curatorial expertise, collections-based knowledge and art historical interests.

Applications may include requests to support:

  • Travel and accommodation.
  • Training courses/programmes of study.
  • Books and subscriptions to add to a museum’s research resources or library.
  • Temporary administrative cover to enable time away from work to undertake research (including training costs to enable another member of the team to provide adequate cover).

We are willing to consider funding other kinds of activity, provided the applicant can make a substantive case for its contribution to the furtherance of curatorial skill and collections-based research projects. Applicants can also request support towards additional research activities to extend existing museum projects or research proposals.

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Is there any eligibility criteria for applicants?

The Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grants programme is open to curators who work across the full range of fine and applied art collections in museums and galleries that hold at least provisional accreditation and are open to the public. In addition, in recognition of the need for new skills, knowledge and research to benefit museum collections for the future, these grants are also available to researchers, art historians and academics from other relevant and related disciplines, retired curators, and other museum professionals who plan to work within and alongside museums to improve the use and understanding of their fine and applied art collections. Applications from individuals not based in a museum or gallery must be accompanied by a letter of support from an accredited, or provisionally accredited, public collection.​

We will not normally consider funding:

  • Equipment – eg computers or related hardware, or cameras.
  • Photographic costs.
  • Reproduction/copyright costs.
  • First-class travel.
  • Research projects being undertaken by undergraduate or postgraduate university students.

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Do you fund students undertaking research projects?

No, we won’t fund research projects being undertaken by undergraduate or postgraduate university students as a part of their degree courses.

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Do I need to have matched funding?

No. We wish to see our support have an immediate impact and are happy to consider requests for 100% funding. Applicants will be required to ensure the travel/activities proposed are realistic and represent the best value for money.

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What happens if my application is successful? How will you award the grant?

You will be expected to submit a financial statement plus a short report which assesses the funded activities with regards to the development of your curatorial expertise and associated actual or potential benefit to your museum’s collections.

Grants can be made in a single payment or to an agreed schedule, and will be paid to the museum bank account. Grant recipients must reclaim any expenditure from their institution. 90% of the grant can be paid up front, with 10% to be withheld until the grant recipient submits a financial statement.

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If my application is turned down, can I apply again? Will I receive feedback?

In almost all instances, once turned down, we will not reconsider your application. There are very rare occasions where we may review the case.

We will endeavour to give clear, constructive feedback if your application is unsuccessful. Please be aware however that our resources are very much in demand, and sometimes, although deserving, your case may not be as high a priority for funding as others we consider.

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Art Happens

What is Art Happens?

Art Happens is the only crowdfunding platform for UK museum and gallery projects. It was launched by the Art Fund in June 2014 and is completely free of charge to use. To date we have raised £210,000 for projects across the country, ranging from new exhibitions to conservation projects and art commissions.

The platform has been designed to harness the reach of the web to bring together potential donors with UK museums and galleries, offering donors the opportunity to receive rewards in return for their backing. We believe the use of reward-based crowdfunding techniques could, over time, open up a new funding source for museums and we’re keen to experiment how crowdfunding can work effectively for a broad range of museums and galleries, big and small, national or regional.

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How does Art Happens work?

UK museums feature projects that need financial support at In return for their support, funders can receive rewards for contributions at different levels. If a project receives enough funding through the site, the project ‘happens’ thanks to the backing of that donor group. The Art Happens website also offers the museum the chance to communicate with funders, by offering updates as the project progresses.

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What projects are you looking for?

Any accredited museum or gallery is eligible to crowdfund through Art Happens, as well as not-for-profit visual arts organisations with a public focus.

We are looking for projects that create a compelling story for the public and have a public-facing, visible outcome. If you are considering a project, a good question to ask yourself is: how would I tell a friend or family member about this project and would they find it interesting or compelling? If the answer is no, it’s probably not the right kind of project for crowdfunding. We recommend that you approach us with two to three ideas, rather than just one.

For a full picture of what it takes to run a successful Art Happens campaign, read our case studies.

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How are projects selected?

The Art Happens website is not an open platform; projects featured have been selected by the Art Fund in collaboration with participating UK museums. Any accredited museum or gallery is eligible to crowdfund through Art Happens, as well as not-for-profit visual arts organisations with a public focus.

There isn’t a formal selection process. If you are interested in featuring a project on Art Happens, please get in touch with Merrin Kalinowski on or 020 7225 4888.

We usually invite those interested in participating to submit a summary proposal for two or three potential projects, with budgets. We then invite you to a crowdfunding workshop day in London with several other museums and galleries. At that day we’ll talk more about what is needed to run campaigns, including how to create a strong donor proposition, compelling rewards and pitch video, and how to run the campaign and maintain momentum. Attendance at the workshop doesn’t always mean we will automatically feature one of your projects; occasionally participants decide they need to go back to the drawing board.

For a full picture of what it takes to run a successful Art Happens campaign, read our case studies.

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How much money can we raise through the platform?

Our experience suggests that Art Happens is suitable for art projects between £10,000 and £25,000. We expect you to share with us a draft budget for any proposed project.

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How much of the donation goes directly to the project?

100% of the donations and any Gift Aid reclaimed will go directly towards funding the Art Happens project. The Art Fund will collect all monies (donations and Gift Aid) and transfer the total amount to the museum to ensure they deliver the project as described.

The Art Fund does not keep any part of the donation. The development and launch costs of Art Happens have been generously supported by a small number of individuals and charitable trusts, and a grant from Arts Council England.

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What do you expect the museums to contribute?

The platform is free to use and we also provide support in making the video, and creating and fulfilling the rewards. We do, however, require museum staff to be fully on board, from the director and trustees to the front-of-house team; as advocates for your campaign, they will be essential for its success.

The crowdfunding target can only be met when the museum reaches out to new audiences and networks, in addition to promoting the project to its existing audiences. The Art Fund will provide additional support in promoting the featured projects through its communication channels.

We want to make a minimal impact on participating museums’ financial resources. Therefore we only expect the museum to contribute staff resources and indirect costs, such as for the rewards (eg curatorial time in giving a talk or use of a gallery space to fulfil an event).

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What happens if we don't raise the full amount?

The Art Fund is committed to making as many projects a success as possible; we will work with individual project owners to maximise the impact of their campaign. However, we have to recognise that not all projects will be successful. If the target amount isn’t reached at the end of the campaign, we offer project supporters the opportunity to transfer their donation to another campaign or to have their donation refunded.

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Museum of the Year

What is the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year?

The Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year celebrates the achievements of UK museums and galleries by highlighting the many innovative ways in which they bring their collections to life for visitors. The £100,000 Prize aims to promote the shortlisted museums and winner across national and international media and is a mass celebration of the UK’s outstanding cultural heritage.

Being shortlisted is an important achievement and offers many opportunities in itself. Previous finalists have seen increased attendance and profile, strengthened support from existing advocates, and, most of all, public recognition of their achievements.

Founded in 2003, the Prize was supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation until 2007 and the Art Fund until 2012. Since 2013 the Art Fund has funded and managed the Prize.

Find out more about the Prize.

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How can our museum be considered?

To be considered for Museum of the Year, you will be asked to show evidence of exceptional achievement and innovation in the preceding year.

The judges will present the Prize to the museum or gallery that has best achieved some or all of the following criteria:

  • Undertaken projects that provide a lasting legacy or have a transformative effect on the museum.
  • Brought its collections to life for audiences – engaging and inspiring understanding.
  • Delivered an original audience development, learning or outreach programme.
  • Clearly won the support and enthusiasm of its visitors.

Specific projects or achievements that could be highlighted in the application can include (but are not restricted to):

  • New exhibitions, collection displays, buildings or refurbishments.
  • Innovative and robust new partnerships.
  • Significant acquisitions, their interpretation and use.
  • Learning programmes that develop the skills, knowledge, values and enjoyment of children, young people and adults of different ages.
  • Audience-engagement, diversity or access projects that increase and broaden participation.
  • Collection and conservation projects.
  • Imaginative use of pioneering technology or digital media.
  • Substantial programmes of modernisation, reorganisation or reinterpretation that have had a transformative effect.

Find out more about the Prize.

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Is there any eligibility criteria for applicants?

The Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year is open to all museums, galleries and historic houses in the UK.

We normally expect applicants to be participants in the accreditation scheme operated by Arts Council England but exceptions are considered where organisations are in the public sector, have charitable status, and have activities that are based on the care, display or interpretation of collections of artistic, historical or scientific interest.

Applicant organisations must be regularly open to the public.

Only one entry may be submitted per individual museum or gallery, though where an organisation operates several museums and galleries, an entry may be submitted for each. Museums or galleries can enter in consecutive years.

If you are unsure whether your organisation is eligible, please get in touch with us. We are keen to encourage as many strong entries as possible. The project manager for the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year is Rachael Browning, who can be contacted on 020 7225 4816.

Find out more about the Prize.

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Are there any terms and conditions?

We ask finalist organisations:

  • To work with the Art Fund as part of a joint initiative to celebrate and promote the finalists’ nominations for the Prize. The Art Fund can provide advice and press and marketing support as needed. Further information will be provided in the briefing pack given to the finalist museums.
  • To be represented at the award ceremony in London by the director and senior representatives of the museum or gallery.
  • That make an admission charge to offer free entry to visitors with a National Art Pass (the Art Fund’s membership card) for the duration of the competition, ie, from the date of the finalist announcement to 31 August.
  • That make a charge for temporary exhibitions to offer visitors with a National Art Pass 50% off the admission price for exhibitions during the same period.
  • To display Art Fund materials such as leaflets and posters at least for the duration of the competition.
  • To provide us with feedback at the end of the competition to help us assess the impact of the Prize and to improve our processes.

For further information and guidance on any of the above please contact the Prize project manager Rachael Browning on 020 7225 4816 or at

Find out more about the Prize.

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