The ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund

The Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund supports the purchase of a wide range of material for the permanent collections of non-nationally funded organisations in England and Wales.

About the Purchase Grant Fund

The Fund is provided by Arts Council England Lottery funding and is managed by the V&A as part of its national work. The grants budget for 2021/22 is £730,000.

Demand is always very strong and funds are allocated to enable as many acquisitions as possible to be made. Each year the Fund considers about 100 applications and enables acquisitions of around £3 million to go ahead.

The Fund, run by the V&A since 1881, retains an interest in the organisations and objects it supports and collections they join, and ensures that the terms of the grant offer continue to be met.

Explore acquisitions supported by the Purchase Grant Fund on the V&A National interactive map:

Recent acquisitions

Rugby Art Gallery and Museum’s priority for contemporary collecting in recent years has focused on addressing gender, sexual and racial identity with an interest in contemporary portraiture. This portrait by renowned British conceptual artist Gillian Wearing, fully meets this ambition.

During lockdown, Rugby Museum embarked on an ambitious project of contemporary collecting – something very new to us. They invited the local community to send in objects, writing, and photography that they had created during, or reminded them of, lockdown during the Coronavirus pandemic. This was then used to create a social history archive of how the pandemic affected the local community. A local photographer was also commissioned to take lockdown portraits of community members who were part of the local support network.

This collecting is perfectly supplemented by Gillian Wearing’s painting – one of a series of self portraits which documented her state of mind during the difficult time of the first lockdown.

Portrait of a woman with dark brown hair, looking into the distance. She wears a dark black jumper with a red, black and white stripe across it.
Self-portrait by Gillian Wearing, 2020. © Gillian Wearing

The Purchase Grant Fund is happy to support manuscript material where there is strong evidential or research value. A recent grant enabled the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society, Leeds to acquire a small memorandum book by John Brearley of Wakefield, from 1772 – 3, at auction.

Brearley’s spontaneous, hand-written notes (including pen and ink sketches of machinery, or components thereof) offer a highly unusual insight into the mind of one of those who helped build the woollen industry in Yorkshire in the 18th century.

Book with lots of writing and sketches in black ink
John Brearley’s memorandum book, 1772 – 3. © Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society

Grants given

How to apply for a Purchase Grant

Eligibility

To receive support, organisations must first meet the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund's eligibility criteria. The minimum requirement is that museums are accredited under the Arts Council England scheme and record repositories be accredited under the Archive Service Accreditation Scheme, or working towards it.

Organisations are assessed when an application is first made and continue to be monitored.

Statue of two people sat next to each other
Egyptian statue of Sutekhmose and Isinofret, about 1193 – 1185 BC, acquired by Leicester Arts and Museum Service. © Leicester Arts and Museum Service

Material of any date relating to arts and culture is eligible for support: archaeological and ethnographical material; objects illustrating social and popular culture, decorative and fine art; rare books; documents and letters with good historical content, estate maps, writers' manuscripts and archival photographs. Items to be bought at auction are also eligible.

The Fund is unable to consider items to be commissioned from artists and makers, as these fall under the remit of the Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants or or scientific or technological material

Finance

  • The budget for 2021 – 22 is £730,000
  • The minimum purchase price is £500 and the maximum £500,000
  • Grants may be up to 50% of the purchase price, though it is unlikely that any organisation will receive more than £50,000 in any one year
  • There is no limit to the number of applications which may be submitted
  • Local financial commitment is essential. Up to £10 of grant aid may be given for each £1 of locally raised funding. The balance may be sought from other grant giving bodies which operate nationally
Brown crab with human eyes, nose, mouth and teeth
Sculpture of an Anthropomorphic Crab, by Robert Wallace Martin of Martin Brothers Pottery, 1880. © Plymouth City Council

Useful documents

The application process

You must discuss the potential purchase with Fund staff so that the likely demand on the Fund's limited resources can be monitored, and tailored advice may be offered.

  • If the item is to be sold at auction, it is essential that you discuss potential applications with Fund staff immediately. Do not wait until the other details are confirmed.
  • We will send you a link to the online application portal after the initial discussion
  • You may submit an application at any time and decisions are normally given within 4 weeks of receiving all necessary information; larger purchases are considered within 2 months
  • Resources are limited and not all deserving cases will be successful. You must therefore argue the significance of the proposed purchase in the context of your permanent collections as strongly as possible. We want museums to be able to provide a more accurate, balanced and inclusive interpretation of their collections, therefore becoming more relevant and sustainable as a result. We will therefore look to support acquisitions which enable you to better reflect and respond to their audiences through your collections.

Contact for all enquiries and requests for forms:
Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 2536
Email: purchasegrantfund@vam.ac.uk