Arts of film: a database and digital archive of Arts Council-funded documentary films 1953-1999

Between 1953, and 1999 when it closed its film department, Arts Council England commissioned or participated in the production of 485 films, which recorded all aspects of - mainly contemporary British - art. The subject matter, length and format of the films are as varied as they are eclectic. Moreover, because of the Council’s liberal attitude to sponsorship, and the creative freedom their commissions offered, they also attracted some of the best film-makers in the UK. Indeed, some of them provide a unique record of a partnership between the Arts Council, artists and film-makers.

The films’ subject matter provides a key resource for any historical study of both British and international post-war art, and also many aspects of British documentary film-making. Several contain rare material about individual artists, and some include definitive coverage on their subject. The collection also includes films that document particular Art movements that have continued to influence contemporary British art. Other films address race, gender and post-colonialism. These films offer a potentially invaluable primary research resource for a wide range of scholars in arts and humanities that will complement more traditional primary materials. They contain valuable material for biographies/monographs, and many different forms of research in art history and documentary film-making. The purpose Arts on Film Archive is to establish a complete database of the collection, and to make a digital copy of every film available for viewing by all researchers in the fields of the Arts and Humanities, both in the UK and internationally.

Principal investigator
Prof. ten Brink
Principal project staff
Dr Joram Ten Brink; Ms Elaine Burrows
Start date
Saturday, May 1, 2004
Completion date
Tuesday, May 1, 2007