Radical plan could move UK national art collections to former IKEA store in Coventry

Two of the UK’s largest and most important national collections could be housed in a former IKEA store in the West Midlands under sweeping plans drawn up by Coventry City Council.

The Arts Council collection and the British Council collection would move to the new facilities as part of the initiative, creating a “consolidated national base that would be in the heart of Coventry city centre”, said Councilor David Welsh .

“According to plans, Coventry City Council will purchase the former five-storey IKEA store in the city center and convert it to create a multi-purpose collection and cultural facility,” reads a project brief. “The new National Collections Center will contribute to a lasting physical, economic and cultural legacy of Coventry’s year as Britain’s City of Culture, which begins on 15 May 2021 and will last for 12 months.” The board is due to vote on the proposal on Feb. 23.

Coventry City Council is due to vote on the proposal on February 23 Courtesy of Coventry City Council

If the scheme is approved, the Arts Council’s 8,000 strong collection would move from two current collection stores: Kennington Park in south London and Longside on the Yorkshire Sculpture Park estate. The collection, which includes works by artists such as Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry, was founded in 1946 and has been managed since 1986 by the Southbank Center in London. The British Council’s collection, which includes over 8,500 works of 20th and 21st century British art, is based in West London. Both collections are supported by public funds.

A spokeswoman for the Arts Council Collection said that if the plans were approved, the Southbank Center would continue to manage the Arts Council Collection on behalf of Arts Council England. When asked if staff will need to relocate from existing venues, she adds: “We are still in the early stages of discussing potential plans. The Arts Council will be working with the Arts Council Collection on the implications there might be for staff as part of any future planning.

The Canada Council’s collection has reached capacity in its two current collections stores, the project brief states, adding: “The proposed new collections center will maximize the efficiency of collections maintenance and enable the Arts Council to develop and implement new ways to explore audience engagement. with the collection.

The arts journal understands that the British Council has meanwhile sought a long-term solution to its collection management requirements and that the Coventry IKEA building on Croft Road is considered the British Council’s preferred option. “Options for this are however still under consideration and have not yet been formally confirmed,” said a source close to the British Council.

The project brings together several other partners including Culture Coventry Trust and Coventry University. Some of the city’s collections not currently on display at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and the Coventry Transport Museum could also be transferred to the proposed centre, which would “improve public access” to Coventry’s collections according to the council. Development costs for the collection center, which are yet to be confirmed, would be recouped through capital grants and rents received from partners involved in the project, according to the council.