Five folk art collections

Direct colourful, surprising and imaginative – no wonder folk art is so appealing. We pick five of the best collections.


1

Compton Verney

Housed in an 18th-century country mansion, Compton Verney is home to the UK's largest collection of British folk art. The works on display range from weathervanes and furniture to shop signs and paintings of prize animals, and highlights include a rare work by folk artist Alfred Wallis, a Cornish fisherman who taught himself to paint at the age of 67.


2

The American Museum in Britain

Established in 1961, the American Museum takes visitors on a journey through the history of America, from its earliest settlers to 20th-century inhabitants. Folk and decorative art is at the heart of the museum's collection, which features 30 New Mexican 'santos' – wooden and ivory statues depicting religious figures – and a signed ivory carving (or scrimshaw) by Frederick Myrick, one of the most famous artists from the whaling community in Nantucket.


3

Horniman Museum and Gardens

The Horniman is a treasure chest of beautifully decorated folk objects from around the world which offer a fascinating insight into the people who made them. Highlights include a dramatic papier maché figure of Kali from Calcutta collected in 1894; a death dance mask in the shape of a crocodile from the Torres Strait Islands; Annang puppets from Nigeria depicting the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana; masks from Mali and Burkina Fasso; and religious altars from Benin, Haiti and Brazil.


4

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Born in the grounds of Kensington Palace to a painter and a civil engineer, Estella Canzani became one of Britain's most important folklorists, amassing a collection of folk art that encompassed costume, jewellery, pottery and woodwork. Following her death, the collection was distributed to museums across the UK, with a large number of pieces preserved in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, where they remain on display today.


5

V&A (Victoria & Albert Museum)

As the world's largest museum of decorative arts, the V&A holds hundreds of pieces of folk art from across the globe and spanning hundreds of years in its collections, from decorative Norwegian ale bowls to Ionian cushion covers.


"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)