The British Council is the UK's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. For most people, the work of the British Council Collection – what it does – remains obscure. This is not the case, however, for many British artists, from Henry Moore to Anya Gallaccio, who have benefited from the Council's support in helping bring their work to international recognition.

For over eight decades, the British Council has been collecting works of art, craft and design to share the achievements of the very best British artists around the world, making an important contribution to the UK's cultural relations with other countries.

11 artworks


Still Life with Figure
© the artist's estate. Image credit: British Council Collection

The British Council Collection

The British Council Collection began in 1938 with a modest group of works on paper, with the aim of promoting British arts and culture. The Collection features over 8,800 artworks, from paintings, prints and drawings, to photography, sculpture, multi-media and installation: with a focus on acquiring post-1945 works by younger and emerging artists.

Still Life with Figure 1948
Rodrigo Moynihan (1910–1990)
Oil on canvas
H 100.3 x W 81.3 cm
British Council Collection

Museum Without Walls

The Collection has no permanent gallery and has been referred to as a 'museum without walls'. The purpose of the Collection is to provide a nucleus for international exhibitions and for public display in British Council teaching centres and offices both internationally and in the UK. Site-specific works have also been commissioned. Works are lent to museums and galleries in the UK and internationally. Some are placed on long-term loans, in instances where their presence would bring both the work of the artist and of the British Council to a wider audience.

Composition 1934 & cast 1961
Henry Moore (1898–1986)
H 46.3 x W 23.8 cm
British Council Collection


Head of JYM III
© the artist. Image credit: British Council Collection

Redefining the Notion of 'British Art'

'British Art' is an important concept to the British Council Collection. We consider 'British Art' with regard to the artists' contribution to the development of British art rather than their own nationality. The ebb and flow of influences from outside Britain is a theme that runs throughout the Collection: with assimilation comes readjustment, and a realignment of our national contours. Continue reading to find out where to see our collection, in the UK and beyond!

Head of JYM III 1980
Frank Helmuth Auerbach (b.1931)
Oil on board
H 71.1 x W 61 cm
British Council Collection


What We Don't Know Won't Hurt Us? (Self Portrait)
© the artist. Image credit: British Council Collection

Divided Selves: Legacies, Memories, Belonging

Herbert Museum & Art Gallery, Coventry, 18 February – 24 September 2023

Herbert Art Gallery & Museum's first exhibition of 2023 featured a significant amount of British Council Collection works. 'Divided Selves' explores notions of belonging and living together at a time when the idea of a nation is under stress, threatened by challenges ranging from populism to armed conflict. The loans to the Herbert also mark the development of the National Collections Centre in Coventry, which will be the new operational base for works from the British Council and some of Culture Coventry collections, among others. In this exhibition, you can see some of our recent acquisitions, including works by Flo Brooks, Gordon Cheung and others.

What We Don't Know Won't Hurt Us? (Self Portrait)
Delaine Le Bas (b.1965)
British Council Collection


Untitled (Torso)
© Rachel Whiteread, courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, London. Image credit: British Council Collection

Revealing the Human Form

Burton at Bideford, 15 July – 5 September 2023

British Council Collection has loaned sculptures to Banbury Museum & Gallery and Burton at Bideford for this specially curated exhibition. Featuring some of the most prominent British sculptors of the last century, the exhibition explores how sculptural expression started in the 20th century with innovative materials and abstract expression through to contemporary explorations and depictions of the human form. Don’t miss this opportunity to see sculptures from internationally renowned artists such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Lynn Chadwick, Kenneth Armitage, Rachel Whiteread, Eduardo Paolozzi and Antony Gormley.

Untitled (Torso) 1991
Rachel Whiteread (b.1963)
Cast dental plaster
H 21 x W 29 cm
British Council Collection


Sea Form (Porthmeor)
© Bowness. Image credit: Tate

Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life

Towner Eastbourne, 27 May – 3 September 2023

'Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life' at Towner Eastbourne will reveal Hepworth's enduring ability to express human experience, interpersonal connections and the world around us. You can expect to see diverse works, from the bold geometric abstract drawings Curved Forms with Red and Yellow Media, through to her iconic Concentration of Hands of the 1940s series 'Hospital Drawings', and curved form sculptures such as Sea Form (Porthmeor).

Sea Form (Porthmeor) 1958
Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975)
Bronze on wooden base
H 83 x W 113.5 x D 35.5 cm


© Boyd & Evans. Image credit: British Council Collection

Boyd & Evans: High Time

MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, 27 May – 17 September 2023

'High Time' is the first major survey of the artist duo Boyd & Evans in over a decade. The exhibition focuses on their painting from the 1960s to today. One of the distinctive features of Boyd & Evans' works is the visual games between the real and artificial – for example, it is hard to tell if Day (1974) is a painting or photograph.

MK Gallery offers pay-what-you-can tickets every Sunday, so do not miss the chance to see the duo's works.

Day 1974
Boyd & Evans (b.1944 & b.1945)
Acrylic on canvas
H 183 x W 183 cm
British Council Collection


The Blue Posts
© the estate of Patrick Caulfield. All rights reserved, DACS 2024. Image credit: British Council Collection

Hurvin Anderson: Salon Paintings

Hepworth Wakefield, 26 May – 5 November 2023

The 'Salon Paintings' exhibition focuses on Hurvin Anderson's significant 'Barbershop' painting series as a lens through which to understand Anderson’s wider practice and key concerns of memory, identity and nationhood. Alongside 'Salon Paintings', Anderson has curated a display of works that will take visitors on a journey through his formative influences, such as Patrick Caulfield and Claudette Johnson.

The Blue Posts 1989
Patrick Caulfield (1936–2005)
Acrylic on canvas
H 289.5 x W 205.7 cm
British Council Collection


Butterfly Kid (Boy) II
© Yinka Shonibare CBE. All rights reserved, DACS 2023. Image credit: British Council Collection

Reimag(in)ing the Victorians

Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, Autumn 2023, date to be announced

From taxidermy and microscopy to forgotten lives and colonial histories, this exhibition will explore how the work of contemporary artists – including Mat Collishaw, Yinka Shonibare, Tessa Farmer and others – reimag(in)es the Victorians in 'the present'.

Yinka Shonibare's Butterfly Kid (Boy) II is, in part, inspired by global warming and its effects on nature's flora. It also examines notions of origin, authenticity and how our complex histories resonate with contemporary issues and are likely to inform the future.

Butterfly Kid (Boy) II 2015
Yinka Shonibare (b.1962)
Fibreglass mannequin, Dutch-wax-printed cotton textile, silk, metal, globe, leather & steel baseplate
H 134 x W 66 cm
British Council Collection


© estate of John Craxton. All rights reserved, DACS 2024. Image credit: British Council Collection

John Craxton: A Kind of Arcadia

Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, 28 October 2023 – 20 April 2024

This is a major exhibition charting the life and work of John Craxton (1992–2009). Central to the exhibition will be Craxton's rebellious biography and his relationships with significant modern British and international artists.

Galatas is one of the works representing his 'neo-romantic' paintings of the 1940s, demonstrating how mid-century Britain and Greece had affected his drawing style and ideas.

Galatas 1947
John Craxton (1922–2009)
Oil on canvas on hardboard
H 76 x W 101.5 cm
British Council Collection


© the artists. Image credit: British Council Collection

Click below for exhibition details!

Divided Selves: Legacies, Memories, Belonging:

Revealing the Human Form:

Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life:

Boyd & Evans: High Time:

Hurvin Anderson: Salon Paintings:

Djanogly Gallery:

Pallant House Gallery:

Attitude 2016
Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings
Powder-coated aluminium
H 226.5 x W 184 cm
British Council Collection