London’s museums and arts spaces were forced to close again this week as the capital moved into Tier 3 COVID-19 restrictions. The temporary closures are another reminder of the financial and operational strains cultural institutions across the UK have endured throughout 2020. As a result, government, charitable and philanthropic sources of funding are now being relied upon more than ever to underpin the arts sector.

One organisation playing a key role in providing this support is Art Fund, the UK’s national fundraising charity for art. Independently funded, in part by its 159,000 members who buy the National Art Pass, Art Fund organises the high profile Museum of the Year competition and provides millions of pounds every year to help museums acquire and share works of art across the country.

Having already been active in providing additional funding and support in response to the impact of COVID-19 , Art Fund announced this month that it has awarded £300,000 to five rising curators through its New Collecting Awards scheme. The funding is specifically intended to help each curator expand and diversify the collections of the museums where they work. Over the last six years, the scheme has awarded over £1.8 million to 35 recipients, with each winning curator receiving a budget for acquisitions alongside funding for research, travel, and training, plus the support of a mentor and Art Fund staff and trustees.

The 2020 winners are:

Louise Pearson, Curator (Photography), National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh

Louise Pearson Curator Photography National Galleries of Scotland

Louise Pearson. Curator Photography National Galleries of Scotland.


Louise Pearson will use Scotland’s census data to identify groups which are underrepresented in the national photography collection and address these gaps by acquiring and commissioning photographs that reflect the true breadth of Scotland’s population. These groups are likely to include single parent families, people of a mixed ethnic background, individuals from the Pakistani and Polish communities and residents of the Scottish islands.

Marenka Thompson-Odlum, Research Associate, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

Marenka Thompson Odlum Research Associate Pitt Rivers Museum

Marenka Thompson. Odlum Research Associate Pitt Rivers Museum.

Marenka Thompson-Odlum will collect new works by indigenous artists from around the world to question and interact with the colonial past of the museum’s collections and find new ways of telling stories. The project will focus on the following indigenous cultures: Ainu (Japan), Haida (North America), Edo (Nigeria), and Polynesian (focusing on Hawaii). It is an extension of Thompson- Odlum’s Labelling Matters project, which explores the often-problematic historic language used within the Pitt Rivers Museum when referring to objects. The new indigenous works will focus on language and self- determination and include works that use written language, textile works, sculptures and performance art (video / digital art).

Andrew Ferrara, Project Curator, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Norwich

Andrew Ferrara Project Curator Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery

Andrew Ferrara. Project Curator Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

Andrew Ferrara’s project will build a collection of exemplar medieval East Anglia coins, ranging from the 7th to 12th century, which will help expand the numismatic collections of Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and deepen the understanding of the region’s medieval history.

Xiaoxin Li, Curator (China), V&A, London

Xiaoxin Li Curator China VA

Xiaoxin Li. Curator (China), V&A, London.

Xiaoxin Li will research and collect contemporary Chinese studio craft, a field significantly under- represented both inside and outside China. Li will help expand the V&A’s expertise on the field by acquiring applied art works created using craft techniques from the 1980s to today.

Catherine Troiano, Curator, National Photography Collections, National Trust

Catherine Troiano Curator National Photography Collections National Trust

Catherine Troiano Curator National Photography Collections National Trust

Catherine Troiano will develop a collection of photography since the 1970s, that represents diverse experiences of British heritage and speaks to local, regional and national histories. The project seeks to expand the Trust’s existing national collections of photography, which are richest in material from the 1840s to the mid-twentieth century. Collecting will focus on emerging and established photographers working in Britain, whose work engages with varied perspectives of identity, land and history.

Article by Richard Unwin.

The New Collecting Awards are made possible by a number of generous individuals and trusts including the Wolfson Foundation, the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts, and the Coral Samuel Charitable Trust. This latest round of funding includes a ring-fenced Award to give a curator a mandate to build a pre-1600 collection for their museum, supported by the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts. This funding will go towards the project at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery by Andrew Ferrara.

Art Fund is also fundraising to support museums through the urgent crowdfunding appeal Together for Museums, aiming to raise £1m to help museums adapt to Covid-19 and evolve in the future.