In focus

The Art Collection is predominantly composed of artworks in fairly traditional materials, such as oil paint, marble, and bronze. Divergence from this, and the active collecting of contemporary work, has been a more recent endeavour; triggered by the merger of the University with Edinburgh College of Art in 2012.

As with many UK collections brought together in recent centuries, representation in the Art Collection is skewed towards white, western European artists, with estimates that they account for over 90% of the holdings. Approximately 33% of the individuals represented in the collection are women, meaning the majority of artists are men.

This section provides a short introduction to some of the key areas of the Art Collection holdings, both in terms of historical significance and future development. It is by no means exhaustive, so for further information please use the search function, or contact us.

Contemporary Art Research Collection (CARC)

Established in 2015 in partnership with academics in the History of Art department, the CARC takes globalisation as its central theme, setting a specific focus on women's experience and the contribution of feminist thought.

Artists acquired to date include:
Alberta Whittle, Shona Macnaughton, Kate Davis, Melanie Gilligan, Petra Bauer, and Manual Labours


The portraits in the Art Collection represent historical figures connected with the University, with some rare recent examples.

The holdings are second only in scope and quality in Scotland to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The Raeburn Room at Old College is dedicated to the seven works by Sir Henry Raeburn held in the collection. Of particular note are the portraits of Robert Trotter of The Bush and Castlelaw by David Martin, and the work depicting John Knox, said to be the first representation of his image.


The Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) Collection is comprised of a diverse range of subjects and genres, including painting, sculpture, film, animation, textiles and jewellery. The largest of the collections is Drawing & Painting, which contains approximately 2,000 items, primarily ex-student work.

Although work was collected from 1914/1915 onwards, the majority of the items remaining in the collection were produced in the second half of the 20th century. This includes a number of significant formative works by artists such as John Bellany, Elizabeth Blackadder, John Houston and Anne Redpath.

Student work continues to be acquired, and you can read more about our annual ECA Degree Show Purchase Prize here.


The Cast Collection is comprised of 265 plaster casts of Antique, Renaissance, and Gothic statues, bas reliefs, and architectural passages held at the ECA and the University of Edinburgh. The plaster casts at ECA are displayed in an A-listed building, including a beautiful neo-Classical sculpture court specifically designed to house the casts of the Parthenon frieze – works donated directly by Lord Elgin especially for the education of artists in Scotland.


Development of the range of media represented in the collection is a key area of work, with a major part of this a collaborative project with the National Galleries of Scotland. Funded via an Art Fund New Collecting Award Grant, the two institutions will be jointly acquiring performance artworks for use in both teaching, research and display.

The Art Collection has also been investing in adding to its modest, but important, selection of moving image works by both international artists as well as students and alumni connected to ECA. Staff and students at the University can view all of the works via Mediahopper.