The New Art Gallery Walsall is home to the prestigious Garman Ryan Collection, gifted to the town in 1973 by Kathleen Garman (1901-1979), who had grown up locally in Wednesbury. 

Though Kathleen spent the majority of her adult life in London, she wanted to gift her collection to the Black Country, believing it was important for culture to exist outside of the capital.

The New Art Gallery Walsall architects Caruso St John placed this important collection at the heart of the new building, creating unique gallery spaces on Floors 1 and 2.  These comprise ten intimate, domestic scale rooms, surrounding a central main hall, connected by an interior staircase.  This reflects the personal collection which had been displayed in the donor’s family home, and now belongs to the people of Walsall. 

Artworks are displayed in the thematic groupings prescribed by Kathleen, which allow the opportunity to make unexpected links and comparisons across different cultures and centuries (rather than in traditional chronological order.)  These themes broadly related to the areas of interest for her late husband, the renowned 20th century Jewish British-American sculptor Jacob Epstein (1880-1959).  From Animals and Birds to Children, Figure Studies to Flowers and Still Life, World Objects to Work and Leisure. 

Kathleen developed the collection with her close friend, Sally Ryan (1916-1968).  Sally was a talented sculptor in her own right, and the granddaughter of a wealthy American tycoon.  Together they amassed a collection of 365 works, including those by European masters such as Constable, Degas, Matisse, Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh, as well as by friends and family members such as Epstein, Lucian Freud, Theo Garman and Matthew Smith, alongside artefacts from many cultures around the world.  

In 2023 The Garman Ryan Collection turns 50. To celebrate Julie Brown, Collections Curator asked staff members, and associates involved in projects with the Collections, to tell them what their favourite work in the collection was and why. Explore the 50 Favourites for 50 Years trail across Floors 1 & 2 or by downloading the 50 Favourites for 50 Years guide below.

The Garman Ryan Epstein Collection

While The Garman Ryan Collection is a closed collection, The New Art Gallery Walsall still actively seeks to collect works by Epstein and his associates.  Any works collected with direct links to The Garman Ryan Collection form part of The Garman Ryan Epstein Collection, started in 1996 as a subsidiary to the main collection, to continue to strengthen the body of work related to Epstein in our holdings.  There are currently around 250 works in The Garman Ryan Epstein Collection.

The Permanent Collection

The New Art Gallery Walsall has an impressive Permanent Collection of over 3500 works, which have been collected since the foundation of the original art collection in Walsall in 1892.  As well as Victorian history paintings and works with a particular resonance to Walsall, the Gallery retains a strong commitment to contemporary collecting, reflected in acquisitions made through the Contemporary Art Society Special Collection Scheme and Art Fund International, as well as works acquired from contemporary artists who have exhibited or had residencies at the Gallery.

The Contemporary Art Society Special Collection Scheme

This scheme ran between 1998-2004 and was funded by the arts lottery. It supported the acquisition by museums of contemporary art and crafts across the country.  Through this scheme, The New Art Gallery Walsall has been able to add to its collection key works by Dorothy Cross, Rose Finn-Kelcey, Laura Ford, Darren Lago, Hew Locke.

Hew Locke exhibition, The New Art Gallery Walsall, 2005. Photo: Jonathan Shaw

The Art Fund International Scheme

In 2008, The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity, awarded The New Art Gallery Walsall, in partnership with Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Ikon, £1million for the creation of a new collection of international contemporary art for the West Midlands on the theme of the Metropolis.  This five year scheme aimed to encourage a radical change in the scale and ambition of contemporary art collecting in the UK and to develop regional collecting.  Between 2008-2013 works were acquired from artists including Mohamed Bourouissa, Andreas Gefeller, Romuald Hazoume, Jitish Kallat, Ola Kolehmainen, Aleksandra Mir, Josef Robakowski, Beat Streuli and Yang Zhenzhong.

Romuald Hazoumè, Article 14: Debrouillé-toi, toi-même!, 2012. Exhibited in 20:20, Twenty Years of Collecting Contemporary Art, 2020. Photo: Mark Hinton.

The Clive Beardsmore Collection

In 2014, The New Art Gallery Walsall was gifted a private collection of 200 artworks from Birmingham-based historical researcher Clive Beardsmore.  Clive has a longstanding association with the Gallery, having worked at the old Walsall Art Gallery in the 1970s at the time Kathleen Garman gifted her collection to Walsall, which was a great inspiration to him. 

As well as two works by Epstein, this collection features works on paper by Modern British Artists including John Bratby, David Hockney, Patrick ProcktorGraham Sutherland and Keith Vaughan and also works by St Ives artists such as Terry Frost, Patrick Heron and Tony O’Malley. There are also ten works by Clive’s former neighbour, renowned abstract painter and former Head of Fine Art at Birmingham Art School, William Gear.

Having also worked for many years as an artist’s model, both in London and the West Midlands, and been an active supporter of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, Clive has formed close relationships with many contemporary artists who are represented in the collection, including Paul Bartlett, Paul Hipkiss and Roger Forbes.

The Twenty Twenty Collection

Following an open call-out, which received submissions from 220 artists across the region, in Spring 2021 the Gallery acquired 32 new works by 30 West Midlands’ based artists, with their individual responses to the significant events that shaped 2020 (the Gallery’s 20th birthday year).

The works, spanning a variety of media from collage and photography to drawing and painting, respond to world events over a tumultuous year; from the Covid19 pandemic and National Lockdowns, to Black Lives Matter and Brexit, to Class Inequalities and Climate Change.

Adele Mary Reed / Alex Billingham / Andrew Roberts / Charlotte Moore / Corinne / Cristina Celestini / Crow Dillon-Parkin / Edgington / Helen Grundy / Jessica Ladkin / Joanne Masding / Laura Onions / Lindsay Pritchard / Lucy Fiona Morrison / Mark Murphy / Matt Greenhill / Michele Harris / Neil McNaught / Paul Newman / Rachel Magdeburg / Roo Dhissou / Ruth Spencer / Ryan Christopher / Sally Butcher / Sally Claire Payen / Sherrie Edgar / Sinéad Patching / Sophia Moffa / Vincent Louis Stokes / Yasmin Agilah-Hood

Discover our Collections Development Policy below.