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Art Fund, the charity that helped buy Rokeby Venus for the nation, celebrates 120 years with new campaign

The Art Fund, the UK’s national charity for art, celebrated its 120th anniversary on 11 November. To mark the occasion, the organisation has launched a fundraising campaign to “support initiatives that bring more people into museums and connect museums more deeply with their local communities”, says Art Fund.

“With the backing of supporters and members, Art Fund’s goal is to raise at least £1.2m for projects designed to do this in the year ahead,” says an Art Fund statement. “Art Fund aims to support its museum partners to open their doors as widely as possible to engage new audiences, especially people who may have never visited their local museum before.”

Asked to elaborate, Art Fund adds that the programme will build on recent grants to link museums with their communities, including an award given to Touchstones heritage museum in Rochdale that enabled their collaboration with artist Harry Meadley in 2022. The successful organisations will be announced in due course.

Art Fund has, over its 120 years, acquired major works for UK public collections.

In 1906, it was established as an organisation by Royal Charter of King Edward VII and known as the National Art Collections Fund; the same year the organisation presented The Toilet of Venus, also known as “The Rokeby Venus”, by Diego Velázquez, to the National Gallery in London after the charity ran a highly publicised fund-raising campaign to acquire the painting and prevent it being sold abroad. Earlier this week, the work was attacked by climate activists, Just Stop Oil.

Earlier this year Art Fund gave £2.5m to help save Joshua Reynolds’ Mai (Omai) from falling into private ownership in a landmark joint acquisition between the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Getty, Los Angeles. In 2020, the public appeal launched by the Art Fund to save the late activist and filmmaker Derek Jarman’s home and garden in Dungeness, Kent, reached its target of £3.5m on deadline.

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