The art collection of the British Empire and Commonwealth Collection contains a varied selection of pieces originating from the former Commonwealth Institute (CI) and the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (BECM). The CI was originally named the Imperial Institute and opened in 1888, becoming the CI in 1958. Both institutes collected art until the 1990s, and the CI closed in 2002. The BECM, previously based in Temple Meads, accepted donations from all those who wished to contribute to its collection. The current collection spans time and place. Some works originate from the early periods of exploration when the British first began voyaging beyond their known world. They claimed the lands they ‘discovered’ for Britain, and later some were invaded and occupied as colonies. Most of the artworks are from the 1950s to the 1990s. Many of the artists were from countries that were incorporated into the British Empire, from Nigeria to India to Guyana. An eclectic mix of amateur works complements the collection: these include pieces owned or created by British citizens working abroad or tourist art purchased as souvenirs.

Image: 'An Imaginative Creature', ink drawing by Barnabas India, from Papua New Guinea. His note on the back reads: A woman with a child on her arm. Above the eyes you see the brai[n] which is giving the woman a hea[dache] (2001/050/301 )

Please also see our new collections online