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Arts Council England will relocate its 8,000-piece collection to a former IKEA store in an effort to create a legacy for Coventry City of Culture.

An artist's impression of the future National Collections Centre

Coventry City Council

A National Collections Centre is a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to create a unique landmark facility - and a legacy for Coventry City of Culture.

Coventry City Council will vote next week on plans to start refurbishing a five-storey former IKEA building in the city centre in the coming year, opening the centre in August 2023.

Arts Council England (ACE) will relocate the 8,000 works in its collection from two storage sites, while Culture Coventry Trust will use space for storing and exhibiting collections from Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and the Coventry Transport Museum. The British Council has also confirmed Coventry as the preferred location to house its collection.


The undisclosed cost of the project, expected to exceed £1m per year, will be covered by capital grants and rent from the centre's tenants. Work exploring the feasibility of "more expansive options" is ongoing, according to a council report.

Coventry City Councillor David Welsh, who has responsibility for culture and the arts, said the centre will create a base for some of the UK's foremost national artworks and cultural organisations.

"This exciting and amazing proposal really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create something Coventry people can be rightly proud of as well as a national and international centre of excellence that will be a lasting legacy from our year as City of Culture."

Local benefits

The primary project partners - ACE, Coventry City Council, Culture Coventry Trust - will work in collaboration with Coventry City of Culture

Spokespeople for the project said it would not be sited in Coventry were it not for the City of Culture year.

Coventry City of Culture Trust Chair David Burbidge said a lasting legacy for the showcase is crucial to creating long term change for the city.

A public exhibition space within the centre will open up opportunities for engagement, education and research. Coventry University has expressed interest in working with the centre to develop skills and potential future jobs for its 4,000 arts and humanities students.

The centre has the added benefit of freeing up Whitefriars Monastery, which currently stores an extensive transport collection and a human history collection for the Culture Coventry Trust, returning it to "its glory as an accessible, historic site of local and national significance," according to council documents.

By consolidating the challenges of collections management onto one site, Coventry will benefit from "the significant expertise and experience of working alongside national collections management teams".

"As well as providing a permanent and purpose-built facility... the proposals also provide an opportunity to convert an otherwise large, iconic and vacant building into a nationally significant and economically active asset for the city."

National significance

The National Collections Centre will provide "an important and recognisable platform" for Coventry to lead the national 'levelling up' agenda.

Coventry City Council believes not pursuing the centre now would mean missing out on opportunities to forge national partnerships, attract investment, and "demonstrate genuine physical and cultural legacy from the UK City of Culture 2021".

The facility will make Coventry the distribution centre for national art loans, positioning the 75-year-old Arts Council Collection "at the heart of this country," according to ACE Chief Executive Darren Henley.

Burbidge, of the City of Culture Trust, said: "Bringing national collections with international significance to Coventry will help to cement the city as a hugely important part of the UK's cultural profile."