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About the NCSS

Introduction | The initiative | Collecting model | Phase 1 / 2003-2006 | Phase 2 / 2007-2010

The National Collecting Scheme Scotland is an initiative of the Scottish Arts Council that supports seven public collections across Scotland to acquire and present challenging contemporary visual art. The initiative also seeks to enable curators within those organisations to extend their knowledge and understanding of contemporary visual arts, and to develop their engagement with the visual arts sector in Scotland.

It is the aim of the NCSS that those public collections are able to reflect the range and vibrancy of contemporary art created here and abroad, that they can help build new audiences for the contemporary visual arts, as well as engage and work with artists and visual arts organisations.


The initiative

Eight years on from its launch in 2003, the National Collecting Scheme Scotland continues to be distinctive and unique.

The aims that combine to make the NCSS unique are:

  • To support a group of museum partners, geographically dispersed across Scotland, in the development of bold and characterful holdings of contemporary art
  • To support those museum partners in sharing and working towards a level of ambition vis-à-vis the collecting of contemporary art that is national and international in dimension
  • To support those museum partners in developing lasting impact and legacy through their contemporary holdings and the shared ambition that has realised them

The features that combine to make the NCSS distinctive are

  • its museum partner participation
  • its collective scale and reach
  • its support for the development of contemporary collections at local level and the multi-faceted ways in which public collections can serve their communities
  • its principle of collaborative and linked working and shared ambition
  • the characterful collections that it has supported
  • its research dimension
  • its role as a platform for wider critical discussion around contemporary collections and collecting in Scotland

Collecting model

As a collecting model, NCSS encourages its participants to take a strategic approach to contemporary collections-building. It is the basis of the NCSS collecting model that its museum partners develop contemporary acquisitions that relate intimately to their wider collections. A small amount of funding for acquisitions and for individual research through travel is available. This requires the articulation of collecting strategies and current areas of interest, which are reviewed by an advisory panel.

NCSS seeks to be developmental, supporting curators to improve upon their skills and expertise, and it acts as an invaluable lever in enabling participating curators to travel individually and abroad to research and expedite acquisitions.

NCSS has encouraged international purchasing artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Camilla Løw and Wolfgang Tillmans were acquired through the first phase and Johanna Billings through the second, giving wider Scottish audiences access to these artists for the first time.

Through active purchasing, the NCSS museums also support the Scottish commercial gallery infrastructure, which itself enables and attracts increasing numbers of artists to live and work in Scotland.

NCSS has also generated a curatorial network/curator group. It is a vital interface for those participating collections-based curators, who are dispersed across Scotland, providing a forum for contact, exchange and information.


Phase 1 2003-2006

Key partners: The Contemporary Art Society; Scottish Arts Council

The NCSS was developed by the Contemporary Art Society, administrated by them between 2003 and 2006. In this phase, the initiative supported the acquisition of both contemporary visual art and design. It was launched initially for a three-year fixed term, with £350,000 of National Lottery investment through the Scottish Arts Council.

122 objects were acquired under the first phase, many with further funding from The Art Fund and The National Fund For Acquisitions. They included works by Sophy Ricketts, Mat Colishaw, Mark Dion, Toby Paterson, Rosalind Nashashibi, Wolfgang Tillmans, Camilla Løw, Kenny Hunter, Julian Opie, Anya Gallaccio and Jonathan Owens.

Within this phase, the original six partner museums were also involved in an innovative joint commissioning programme the first of its kind in the UK - through additional National Lottery funding from the Scottish Arts Council. They collaborated to commission Glasgow-based artists Joanne Tatham & Tom O'Sullivan to create a substantial and ambitious new work of art for Scotland.


Phase 2 2007-2010

Key partners: Scottish Arts Council; History of Art department, University of Glasgow

This second phase 2007-2010 was designed to support further research and travel along with acquisitions of contemporary visual art into the partner museums of the NCSS, and to consolidate and sustain debate around public collections of contemporary art in Scotland.

In this phase, the Scottish Arts Council developed a further partnership with the History of Art Department, University of Glasgow in order to ground a research dimension and programme. A part-time Research Associate post was created in the History of Art department, and held by Dr Tina Fiske for the duration of the Phase. The post has been a catalyst for research-focused activities around the National Collecting Scheme Scotland.

Works by Lucy Skaer, Tracey Emin, Anish Kapoor, John Stezaker, Callum Innes, Johanna Billings, Martin Boyce, Charles Avery, Henry Coombes, Catherine Yass, Nina Saunders and Max Hymes have been acquired, again many with funding from further The Art Fund and The National Fund For Acquisitions.

The activities of the Research Associate have focused on

  • building up the external relationships around the NCSS
  • establishing a context of critical debate within the sector on the issue of collections and collecting, using NCSS as the platform to do so
  • engendering and contributing to layers of research and teaching activity, as well as identifying research and teaching needs in relation to contemporary collections formation, dissemination and impact