About the Collection

The South London Gallery is best known for its changing programme of contemporary art exhibitions, and in the gallery’s founding mission of 1896 there is no reference to a permanent collection. Over the years, however, the SLG gradually built up a collection, beginning with a number of gifts from artists whose works were on long term display in the main exhibition space. In the course of the next hundred years there were sporadic attempts to enlarge the collection, ranging from the purchase of 600 modern British prints in the 1960s, through to a drive to purchase works by local artists in the 1980s.

In 1992 the SLG began to collect contemporary works relating to South London with the help of the Contemporary Art Society (CAS) including works by Gilbert & George, Anselm Kiefer and Sherrie Levine, as well as younger artists such as Tracey Emin, Gavin Turk and Ann Sofi-Sidén. In 1999 the Gallery joined the CAS’s Special Collection Scheme, and purchased works by Sarah Lucas, Keith Coventry, Angus Fairhurst, Christian Boltanski and Keith Tyson. This formed the basis of the contemporary collection which focuses on three main themes: artists picturing themselves; recording the local area; and works related to the South London Gallery’s exhibitions programme.

In 2003 the collection was divided into the contemporary collection, defined as works dated post 1970 and of which there are approximately 145 works, and the historic collection, embracing all the earlier works. The contemporary collection is documented here, and further information on the historic collection can be found here and you can research objects in the historic art collection on artuk.org.

Today the entire collection numbers some 6000 works which can be broadly categorised in the following groups:

  • 2500 watercolours, drawings, prints and maps of local views
  • 600 20th century prints purchased in the 1960s
  • 500 Daumier lithographs
  • 1000 16 -19th century prints
  • 200 Victorian paintings and drawings
  • 200 ceramics of which 90 are items of Martinware
  • a limited number of 17 and 18 century textile
  • 16 20th century works acquired through the Contemporary Art Society including some of the jewels of the collection such as a Walter Sickert oil painting
  • a small collection of sculptural works from the late 19th century to the present
  • 600 coins and medals
  • 145 other contemporary works most of which are documented on this website


The collection is managed by Southwark Council as part of the
Southwark Art Collection, but the South London Gallery is the primary user of the contemporary collection, largely for education and outreach projects, but also for temporary exhibitions. In 2007-2009 the collection was the subject of Double Take: an 18-month project in partnership with Ernst & Young and also supported by Arts & Business. The project provided pupils from two Southwark secondary schools first-hand access to the collection through a series of six mini exhibitions at each school. The project culminated in two exhibitions programmed, selected and organised by the pupils in specially designed temporary structures in each school.

You can view additional artworks from the Southwark Art Collection here 


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