Museum acquisitions

Museums often acquire works through donations but, in spite of funding constraints, they also make purchases to expand their collections, either bidding at auctions, negotiating private treaty sales or, in the UK, via the Acceptance in Lieu scheme.


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The Box catches the Martinware crab

24 February 2020

The Box, a museum, gallery and archive set to open in Plymouth in May, has acquired a ‘colossal and extraordinary grotesque grinning crab’ by the Martin Brothers.

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Record-breaking Martin Brothers grinning crab saved for nation heads to Plymouth after export block

19 February 2020

A new museum in Plymouth has acquired a ‘colossal and extraordinary grotesque grinning crab’ by the Martin Brothers after fundraising to keep the sculpture in the UK.

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News In Brief – including two purchases by the British Museum

13 January 2020

A round-up of art and antiques news from the previous seven days, including British Museum's purchase of an 18th century Indian watercolour miniature and a Saxon seal matrix.

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British Museum buys 18th century Indian watercolour miniature to prevent its export overseas

07 January 2020

An 18th century watercolour miniature by one of India’s greatest painters has been saved for the nation by the British Museum.

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Fleamarket find joins the national ceramics collection

06 January 2020

A white porcelain sculpture made in the experimental years of the Chelsea factory has been acquired for the national ceramics collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Mod Brit artworks gifted to nation will go on display at Hepworth Wakefield gallery

03 January 2020

Three works by Modern British artists will go on display at The Hepworth Wakefield gallery following a donation via the government’s Cultural Gifts Scheme.

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British Museum is third time lucky to buy 1000-year-old seal matrix

23 December 2019

A rare Saxon walrus ivory seal matrix will go back on display in the British Museum – after the institution missed out on buying the object twice before.

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2020 vision

23 December 2019

For better or worse, Brexit is finally set to proceed and will be a major factor in the year ahead – as will timed auctions, anti-money laundering rules, the looming prospect of a near-total ivory trade ban, antiquities challenges and a new buying ethos based on cultural sensitivities, changes at major fairs and a growing ‘green’ movement.

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The changing face of antiquities

23 December 2019

Given the growing number of claims made by national governments and heritage authorities when it comes to the antiquities sector, 2020 looks set to be another year of further controversies. Here, lawyer Fred Clark, an associate in Boodle Hatfield LLP’s art team, surveys the legal landscape of the ancient art market and looks ahead to what may well become a more regulated world.

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Rare and early white porcelain sculpture from Chelsea factory bought by V&A museum

20 December 2019

A white porcelain sculpture made in the experimental years of the Chelsea factory has been acquired for the national collection of ceramics at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

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Teenage diary of 18th century stained glass craftsman bought by York University

20 December 2019

A 90-page journal kept by a 15-year-old boy has been purchased by the University of York for £3200 at auction.

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Trio of works sold by West Midlands dealer go to major museums

10 December 2019

This 19th century Jamaican inlaid table by Ralph Turnbull was one of several pieces that Thomas Coulborn & Sons sold to major museums this year.

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Yorkshire’s Brontë Parsonage Museum secures rare manuscript at Paris auction

18 November 2019

The Brontë Parsonage Museum has secured an 1830 autograph miniature manuscript by a 14-year-old Charlotte Brontë (1816-55) that was auctioned at Aguttes in Paris.

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National Gallery appeals for £2m from public to buy Gentileschi masterpiece

12 November 2019

London’s National Gallery is asking for the public’s help to raise the final £2m required to buy 'The Finding of Moses' by Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639) from its owner, entrepreneur and founder of the DFS furniture retailer, Graham Kirkham.

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Actress Judi Dench and the Brontë Museum call on public to help fund bid for miniature manuscript by a 14-year-old Charlotte Brontë

24 October 2019

The Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth in West Yorkshire has begun a public campaign to raise the final funds needed to bid for a rare manuscript from the Brontës' childhood.

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Famous Welsh religious revival painting ‘Salem’ saved for nation

11 October 2019

The National Library of Wales has bought Salem by Sydney Curnow Vosper (1866- 1942) ahead of a planned auction.

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Re-discovered Bronzino painting acquired by Getty Museum

10 October 2019

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles has purchased two works of Italian art: a painting of The Virgin and Child by Agnolo Bronzino (1503-72) and a pair of marble sculptures of The Annunciation by Giovanni di Balduccio (c.1290-1339).

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Louvre buys sketches showing Napoleon’s seizure of art during Prussian campaign

08 October 2019

A group of drawings and a sketchbook compiled by an artist assigned to Napoleon’s campaigns in Prussia and Poland in 1806-7 has been secured by the Louvre at a Toulouse auction.

Bristol University to buy judge's copy of 'Lady Chatterley’s Lover' from famous obscenity trial

02 October 2019

Fundraising led by writers’ association English PEN has helped save for the nation the judge’s annotated copy of 'Lady Chatterley’s Lover'.

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Dealer sells Gell portrait to British Museum

30 September 2019

London and Petworth dealer Timothy Langston Fine Art & Antiques has sold a portrait of the Regency period antiquarian Sir William Gell (1777-1836) to the British Museum.

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