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.


Dealer spots “dirty and unattributed” portrait and sells it back to historic mansion

20 September 2021

This recently discovered 18th century portrait was painted by John Vanderbank (1694-1739) and depicts Holles St John of Lydiard Park.

Édouard Manet portrait in Welsh museum gets funding for restoration from TEFAF grant

28 August 2021

The National Museum Wales has received a €20,000 (£17,130) grant to restore an Édouard Manet (1832-83) picture.

Texas museum buys courtly Spanish portrait at Christie’s

24 August 2021

The Meadows Museum in Dallas, Texas has announced that it was the buyer of a Spanish Baroque Old Master at a Christie’s auction last year.

Baroque chess set bought at TEFAF unveiled at Polish museum

09 August 2021

This impressive Baroque chess set by the Danzig amber artist Michel Redlin has returned to the city of Gdansk in Poland where it was made over 300 years ago.

Lawrence’s ‘The Red Boy’ bought by The National Gallery in deal via Christie’s

24 July 2021

The National Gallery is to acquire a portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) with the help of charitable donations and advice from Christie’s.

A dozen ‘national treasures’ saved for the nation after export licence blocks

21 July 2021

A dozen items deemed national treasures were bought by institutions between May 2018 and April 2020 with a value of £7.6m, according to the latest report.

French state buys infamous Marquis de Sade’s manuscript with help from a wealthy banker

13 July 2021

France’s Ministry of Culture announced the acquisition by the state of the ‘120 days of Sodom’ by the Marquis de Sade and a number of other manuscripts.

Pick of the week: Helmet heads to Philadelphia

12 July 2021

A Renaissance helmet sold at a London auction will be reunited with its garniture (set of armour) after being bought by Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA).

Duchess daughters reunited via dealer and saleroom

28 June 2021

These pastel portraits depicting Georgiana and Henrietta Cavendish, the two legitimate daughters of Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, are soon to hang side by side for the first time in over a century.

Fundraising begins for Brontë Honresfield Library collection after Sotheby's postpones auction to give museums more time

17 June 2021

Sotheby’s has delayed the sale of a library collection related to the Brontë family to give a chance for institutions to raise funds to buy it.

Pick of Week: Fred Perry medal nets £20,000 from Wimbledon museum

14 June 2021

Gold medal won at Wimbledon in 1936 by British tennis great is purchased by the Lawn Tennis Museum at the All England Lawn Tennis Club

Sixteenth century Scottish Highlands manuscript bought by Edinburgh museum

08 June 2021

A 16th century manuscript has been bought by The National Libraries of Scotland at auction.

Museum hopes to buy Brontë manuscripts at Sotheby’s

31 May 2021

The Brontë museum hopes to raise funds to buy rare manuscripts from a rediscovered library collection coming up for sale at Sotheby’s.

Archive of Stephen Hawking acquired by Cambridge University Library and the Science Museum after tax deal

26 May 2021

Archive papers and personal objects belonging to the late Professor Stephen Hawking (1944-2018) have been acquired by two institutions.

News In Brief – including news of a portrait of Catherine de’ Medici returning to Strawberry Hill House

24 May 2021

A round-up of art and antiques news from the previous seven days, including news of Strawberry Hill House acquiring a group portrait of Catherine de’ Medici and her children.

London and Birmingham museums benefit from tax scheme for doctor’s portrait

22 May 2021

The National Gallery in London and Birmingham’s Barber Institute of Fine Arts will both benefit from the acquisition of a portrait by German artist Lovis Corinth (1858-1925).

National Gallery acquires fourth picture from late art patron via tax scheme

20 April 2021

The National Gallery has taken ownership of a portrait by Isaack Luttichuys (1616-73), the first work by the artist to enter a British public collection.

Californian museum acquires Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘record’ Lucretia picture

08 April 2021

The J Paul Getty Museum has acquired a work by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593- c.1654) that had previously sold for a record auction price in 2019.

‘Mother of modern British ballet’ portrait sold at Christie’s and donated to Royal Academy of Dance

31 March 2021

A portrait of the 'mother of modern British ballet’ will go on public display this autumn after dance enthusiasts rallied round to bid at auction.

Snail man object

Museums buy more Treasure finds as metal detecting discoveries soar

23 March 2021

Artefacts found buried in the ground by metal detectors across the UK has yet again increased Treasure finds allowing museums to boost their collections.

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