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National Art Collections Fund


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The UK's largest art charity, founded in 1903 to assist public collections to acquire works of art they would not otherwise be able to afford. The founders, who included Roger Fry, shared a concern about the amount of art leaving the country, and the Art Fund's first conspicuous achievement came in 1906 when, by means of a public appeal, it bought Velázquez's Rokeby Venus, which was in danger of being sold abroad, and presented it to the National Gallery, London. Many similar successes have followed, most memorably that with Leonardo da Vinci's cartoon of the Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist: in 1962 financial problems forced the Royal Academy to sell the cartoon, its greatest treasure, and the Art Fund's campaign to secure it for the National Gallery caught the public imagination to such an extent that an estimated 300,000 people made contributions to the purchase price. Most of the Art Fund's work deals with more modest art, however, and by the time of its centenary in 2003 it had helped more than 600 museums, galleries, and historic houses throughout the UK to acquire a huge variety of work, ranging from prehistoric artefacts to contemporary experimental pieces. More broadly, the Art Fund aims to increase public enjoyment and understanding of art and has, for example, played a leading role in the campaign to abolish admission charges to national museums, which achieved its aim in 2001. The Art Fund is supported mainly by members' subscriptions.

Subjects: Art.


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