Sir Joshua Reynolds, ‘Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney: The Archers’ 1769
Sir Joshua Reynolds
Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney: The Archers 1769

Acquisitions are made according to priorities agreed by the Board of Trustees. All works of art proposed for acquisition are considered through the same procedures, whether offered as purchase, gift or bequest, or allocated by the Government in lieu of tax. Proposals are discussed and assessed by teams of specialist curators, and their recommendations are considered by the Acquisitions Group. This includes the Director, the Directors of Tate Britain and Tate Modern, and the Directors of Collection for British and International art. Final assessments are made by the Director and the Collections Committee, which meets four times a year. The Committee comprises seven members, four of whom are Trustees. All decisions, however, rest ultimately with the Board of Trustees. Archive acquisitions also go through the same process and are submitted to the Trustees for decision.


Tate’s art collection and archive collection are built by purchase, gift and bequest, as well as through works allocated by the Government in lieu of tax and through the Cultural Gift Scheme. Tate’s collecting is funded by a grant provided by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and is also supported by individuals and by funding groups established by the museum. Tate also applies for additional funding for specific works from various charitable organisations.

The Collections Committee is empowered to make decisions about proposed acquisitions of a value below £250,000. Its decisions are then ratified by the Board of Trustees. For acquisitions costing above £250,000, however, the Committee only makes recommendations to the Board of Trustees, who take the final decision.

The Committee also oversees the Director’s purchase authority. The Director has the authority to spend up to £100,000. Should a purchase be necessary in-between meetings of the Collection Committee and the Board of Trustees, the Director is able to commit funds so long as the purchase is a work:

  • about which an urgent decision has to be made, including but not limited to works sold at auction;
  • which falls clearly within the current Collection Strategy agreed by Trustees;
  • where action in relation to the work of a particular artist has been agreed in principle by the Collection Committee at an earlier meeting.

The Director must seek the permission of the Chair of the Collection Committee before acting. All purchases are reported to the Collection Committee and ratified by the Board of Trustees.

Tate was first allocated an official purchase grant in 1946 of £2,000. By 1953–4 the purchase grant had risen to £6,250 and by the mid–1980s it reached £2.2 million. In 1992–3, the last year of the official purchase grant, the sum was £2 million.

Tate now spends around £1 million of its general funds each year on acquisitions and their related costs. This sum is significantly increased as a result of grants from bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Art Fund. Other funds for acquisitions are raised by Tate funding groups such as the Members, the Patrons and the American Patrons of Tate and its sub-committees, the North American Acquisitions Committee and Latin American Acquisitions Committee, which fund specific acquisitions acquired on behalf of the American Fund for Tate. In addition there are six further Committees; the Asia-Pacific Acquisitions Committee, Middle East and North Africa Acquisitions Committee, Photography Acquisitions Committee, Africa Acquisitions Committee, Russia and Eastern Europe Acquisitions Committee, and the South Asia Acquisitions Committee. Tate also receives important acquisitions by gift or bequest from collectors and artists, as well as works of art accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax, and through the Cultural Gifts Scheme, administered by the Arts Council.

Over the financial year 2014-15, for example, Tate has added works of art valued at £76,981,000 to the Collection (£33,596,000 in 2013-14). Of this figure, £72,742,000 has been donated by individuals either directly or in lieu of tax (£4,316,000 in 2013-14). Funding for purchased works of art has come from many sources, including charitable funds and self-generated income.

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