Former MoJ perm sec takes up Government Art Collection role

Richard Heaton will chair advisory committee responsible for more than 14,700 works
Sir Richard Heaton Photo: Ministry of Justice

By Jim Dunton

05 Sep 2023

Former Ministry of Justice and Cabinet Office permanent secretary Sir Richard Heaton has been appointed as chair of the steering group for the Government Art Collection.

Heaton, who left government in 2020 after five years at the helm of the MoJ, took up post as chair of the GAC's Advisory Committee on Monday this week. The collection, which contains more than 14,700 artworks, is part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Heaton’s appointment was made by DCMS perm sec Sarah Storey and is due to last for a period of four years.

Heaton spoke of his lifelong love of art in a 2016 interview with CSW, in which he discussed the choices he made from the collection when taking the top job at the MoJ. Some of the artworks at Heaton’s office were from his own personal collection.

“My home is full of art as well,” he said at the time. “It’s just always something I’ve collected.”

The GAC is set to mark its 125th birthday next year. Originally intended as a cost-effective way to “spruce up” tired-looking offices in Whitehall without the need for full refurbishment, the collection now supplies art to government buildings and embassies across the world.

The collection spans six centuries and includes work by William Hogarth, John Constable, Walter Sickert, Lucian Freud, Bridget Riley, Sir Peter Blake, David Hockney, Tracey Emin, and Damien Hirst. New acquisitions include a series of works by Richard Wentworth.

The GAC has a staff of around 20 according to its most recent annual report. The Advisory Committee has 14 members, including the chair.

Prior to becoming MoJ perm sec in 2015, Heaton was perm sec at the Cabinet Office from 2012. His post-government roles include serving as warden of Robinson College, Cambridge, and as chair of trustees at Koestler Arts, a charity that promotes art and creativity in prisons and other parts of the secure estate and justice system.

Heaton said he was “thrilled” to become chair of the GAC Advisory Committee.

‘I’ve admired the Government Art Collection for years,” he said. “It brings art to the workplace and to the public, it supports practising artists, and it quietly speaks for the UK around the world.”

GAC director Eliza Gluckman thanked outgoing chair Sir David Verey for 10 years of “stewardship and support”, which include the collection’s move to a new home at the Old Admiralty Building.

The Advisory Committee’s role covers new acquisitions as well as the stewardship of the existing collection. Among its current members are Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson and DCMS director for arts, heritage and tourism Nicola Hewer.

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