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Research programme 2009-2010 | Research projects

Distinctive to the NCSS second phase, the Scottish Arts Council has worked in partnership with the History of Art department, University of Glasgow throughout 2007-2010 to shape a research dimension to sit alongside the initiative.

The Scottish Arts Council has funded a part-time Research Associate, based in the History of Art department, University of Glasgow, to develop a programme of reasearch and research-focused activities around contemporary collections and collecting, using NCSS as their platform.

For an overview of the Research dimension supporting Phase 2 and its future potential, see NCSS Research Evaluation in Downloads

Research programme 2009-2010

The Contemporary Collections and Collecting in Scotland Series formed the core of the research programme developed around the National Collecting Scheme Scotland in its second phase.

The Series comprised three linked events, which took place between May 2009 and January 2010 at the Tramway and Centre for Contemporary Art in Glasgow, and at Dundee Contemporary Arts. They were organised by the History of Art Department at the University of Glasgow in partnership with a range of organisations and supported by the Scottish Arts Council.

Over the last few years, the contemporary collecting landscape has evolved rapidly through initiatives such as ARTIST ROOMS, Art Fund International and the National Collecting Scheme Scotland. This has also been a period of change for sector bodies as such the Scottish Arts Council and Museums Galleries Scotland, and for organisations such as The Contemporary Art Society in London.

The over-arching and cumulative objective of the three events has been to respond to this changing and developing context, and to engage in and sustain productive critical discussion about contemporary art collections and collecting in Scottish museums and galleries.


Together, the three events were intended to:

  • Initiate a 'mapping' process and promote alignment of the various related initiatives and funds that support contemporary collections-building in Scotland and provide an updated context and overview of the contemporary collecting landscape.
  • Build a community of stakeholders and initiate a regular forum for identifying priorities and perspectives, and to explore ways of linking them.
  • Further a common understanding of the extent and nature of aspirations across public collections to develop their contemporary acquisitions and programmes.
  • Identify the most effective ways to represent and address the critical questions about the strategic development and use of contemporary collections across Scotland.

Who participated?

A key principle of the Series has been to recognise that issues pertaining to collections and collecting reach across a range of sector bodies, funders, organisations and individuals. Currently, however, there is no regular forum in Scotland for drawing together representatives from the various agencies and development bodies, collecting institutions, public galleries, commercial galleries, or artists around the issues of collections or collecting. An objective of this series has been to look at how this might be established, what form it might take, and what it might do.Those with a stake in contemporary collecting were invited to participate: this included individuals from organisations within the museums and HE sectors, members of the visual artists” community, and representatives from the Art Schools, non-collecting institutions and visual arts organisations, and commercial galleries.

Across the Series, 94 individuals participated in one or more of the events, amongst them individuals representing 50 organisations and coming from Orkney, Aberdeen, Perth, Dundee, Stirling, London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paisley and Selkirk.

Download a full list of the individuals who participated in the Series here: NCSS Full Attendees Individuals list (PDF).

Evaluation process

An evaluation of National Collecting Scheme Scotland Phase 2 has been undertaken by Dr Tina Fiske in line with the conclusion of Phase 2 on March 31. Please see NCSS Research Evaluation and Appendix 1 and the NCSS Museum Partner Evaluation.

Next Steps

  • Late May /early June: A meeting at the University of Glasgow for those who wish to continue being involved – to provide an opportunity to feed back on the recommendations and to articulate what they can bring to future developments as well as how they might benefit from them.

Selected feedback on the Series

“This series has taken something passionately discussed in quite intimate circles into a much broader arena ... we have managed to extend/activate a wider network, to make more evident the range of stakeholders in this important issue.”

“This initiative ... has brought together people in a way that no other topic of discussion has because it unites us all. There are many different levels represented here so you can feed up and down, but it is the core. People here are those doing the work.”

“It helps understanding of the different parts and where they may connect together”

“It strikes me that the importance of a forum like this is in ensuring that things don”t seem to be in competition.”

“This forum gives a chance to say ‘this is our position, this is what we do, and this is what we don't do.’ It is a chance to say what we are not doing and why. There is a certain amount of expectation around: we don't do certain things, and often there is little chance to say why.”

“... one of the things that has got to be communicated back into the structures is the very strong sense that visual arts, of all disciplines in our museums, is the one that has managed to have gatherings together of this sort, about the direction of our collections, and what can others learn from this.”

“One of the things that is interesting about this grouping is that you have museum curators, but also people working with artists more directly etc. It is that which I think is interesting.”

“We assume that we know what each other does. Having a forum to hear about what others do helps you to understand the opportunities. How do those discussions take place?”

“A forum for discussing programming three years down the line and tying that up with some of the collecting institution's agendas would be fantastic.”

Research projects

Within Phase 2, new research has been generated in response to the programme developed through the Contemporary Collections and Collecting in Scotland Series.

Patrons group research

In December 2009, Dr Kirstie Skinner initiated research into the viability of a new Patrons Group that is responsive to Scotland 's collecting context and is tailored to the supporters of Scottish culture at home and abroad.

The research has been originated by Dr Skinner in relation to the first event in the Contemporary Collections and Collecting in Scotland Series. She was awarded funding by the Scottish Arts Council through the History of Art Department, University of Glasgow, and her findings are presented in her report, Establishing TRUST: a patrons' group dedicated to the expansion of Scotland's contemporary art collections.

Research context

Following a Scottish Arts Council audit of collecting activity in Scotland conducted in 2003 and 2004 by the Contemporary Art Society, two schemes were set up. The National Collecting Scheme for Scotland aimed to develop the public holdings of contemporary art by offering funding and research support to curators, and the National Galleries' Spin members' group promoted the enjoyment of contemporary art through regular and informal discussion. Because the scale of private collecting in Scotland was revealed to be minimal, it did not seem viable to develop a patrons’ scheme at that time.

Now, however, capitalising on discussions as part of the Contemporary Collections and Collecting in Scotland series, and thanks to the ongoing impact of the afore-mentioned initiatives, the marked rise in the confidence of the commercial galleries in the Scottish sector, the advent of the d'Offay legacy, and a new director at the SNGMA, Scotland’s collecting culture is characterised by new vigour and increasing sophistication. A new patrons group would not simply reflect this excitement: by quickly becoming a highly-regarded entity in itself, it could seek to enhance the profile and prestige of Scottish collecting in the wider art world.

Research aims

The purpose of the research is to investigate the potential for a flexible and innovative independent patrons’ group in Scotland , which could

  • purchase works of contemporary art for public collections in Scotland, and seek to engender an excitement around private support for collections
  • be aimed at novice and experienced collectors of art, as well as other individuals who wish to engage with, and enhance, Scotland's collecting culture;
  • promote the inherent rewards of contributing to a shared culture;
  • consist of a number of different 'funds' so that it could work with a variety of curators and institutions, and could respond to new ideas and shifting contexts in the future.

Research meetings

The research programme includes two meetings held at the University of Glasgow:

  • 12 November 2009: Preliminary meeting, to introduce research aims to a group of invited participants.
  • 4 March 2010: 'Patrons, the work of emerging artists, museum collections.'