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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National Trust house in Cumbria buys portrait by Georgian society painter George Romney

25 March 2020

Sizergh Castle and Garden, a stately home and garden in Cumbria run by the National Trust, has bought a portrait by 18th century painter George Romney.

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Science Museum snaps up collection of works by Second World War artist Paul Drury

23 March 2020

Sim Fine Art has sold a 28-work collection of pictures by Second World War artist Paul Drury (1903-87) to the Science Museum in London.

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Record level of Treasure finds boosted by metal detectorists and a tipper truck

18 March 2020

The number of items deemed to be Treasure and found by the UK public has hit a record high, according to new figures from the British Museum.

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US collectors give Cleveland museum gift worth more than $100m

14 March 2020

The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) has been given a “transformative” collection valued at more than $100m.

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British Museum buys 3000-year-old Bronze age gold pendant

07 March 2020

A well-preserved 3000-year-old Bronze age gold sun pendant, known as a bulla, has been bought by the British Museum after it was found by a metal detectorist in Shropshire in 2018.

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‘Outstanding’ maiolica medicine jar bought by British Museum in tax arrangement with dealer Sam Fogg

28 February 2020

A sixteenth century double-handled maiolica albarello, bought by Mayfair dealer Sam Fogg in 2014, has been acquired by the British Museum.

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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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