Art collection to be split and shown around UK

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A post-war and contemporary art collection valued last year at 125 million pounds ($175 million) will be split up and shared for a series of exhibitions at galleries across Britain.

More than 30 “Artist Rooms” will be created at 18 galleries throughout 2009, in what organizers say is the first time a national collection has been shared and shown simultaneously across the country.

The collection of 725 works was acquired by the state in 2008 from Anthony d’Offay, an influential British art dealer. He sold his works for 26.5 million pounds, the amount they cost him originally but a fraction of their market value.

Artist Rooms will include works by Diane Arbus, Gilbert & George, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Gerhard Richter and Andy Warhol.

D’Offay’s guiding principle for the series of shows was the concept of individual rooms being devoted to particular artists.

The works will go on display at galleries and museums as far afield as the Pier Arts Center in Stromness, Orkney, off the north coast of Scotland, to the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on England’s southern coast.

“One of the best things about Anthony d’Offay’s gift is that it is not just about London. Nor even just about London and Edinburgh -- but about the country as a whole,” said Barbara Follett, minister for culture.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato