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The pledge forms the centrepiece of a year of celebrations which will include a centenary exhibition next autumn in the Hayward Gallery on London’s South Bank and an international conference in November.

The search is on for a suitable work on which to spend the £1m. “Once the work is found and purchased, we will ensure that as many people as possible get an opportunity to view it – initially, by loaning the purchase to as many museums as possible around the UK, and in the long term, by displaying the work in a permanent home in one or two museums, “ said Mr Allen.

“We want the centenary purchase to make an impact, to lift the spirits and to open people's eyes. Above all, it has to be something that the public will love to see.”

At their recent reception at Tate Britain, outgoing chairman Sir Nicholas Goodison pointed out that the Tate housed 400 works acquired with the help of the Fund.

Grants have been issued to countless museums and galleries across the nation, with perhaps the most celebrated contribution being made for the V&A’s acquisition of The Great Bed of Ware. Billed as perhaps the most celebrated piece of English furniture in existence, it is even mentioned by Shakespeare.