a small oil painting by artist adolphe valette. The image depicts a peaceful rural landscape scene with green fields, trees, and a brick building.

Adolphe Valette, Romiley, 1916. Photograph: Photography North West.

History of the Collection


The University of Salford has been collecting artworks since the late 1960s, around the time the institution – then the Royal Technical Institute – gained University status in 1968.

Over the years the Collection has grown to include 700 modern and contemporary artworks in a range of media, which are stored and displayed on campus, and exhibited with other museums, galleries and industry partners, in the UK and internationally.

From its early days, the collection has had a strong focus on acquiring work from artists living and working in the North of England, including Salford’s most famous painter L.S. Lowry (1887 – 1976), who studied here from 1915-25, working in a studio in Peel Building overlooking Peel Park. The Narcia Fitting-Out at the Tyne (1968) was purchased in 1971.

Also acquired at this time were two small oil paintings by French artist Adolphe Valette (1876-1942), Romiley (1916) and Figures by a Fence (1917). Valette lived in Manchester in the early 20th century, and taught and inspired Lowry.

Another Salfordian, and good friend of Lowry, is Harold Riley (b.1934), a prolific painter best known for his portraits of footballers, golfers, as well as several University of Salford Chancellors. A number of his portraits are held in the collection, alongside his paintings and drawings of Salford and Greater Manchester landscapes.

Early Collecting

Early collecting policies were quite broad – but mainly included post-war British painting, print-making, and later, photography. Most acquisitions were landscape or abstract works.

The innovative Manchester Print Workshop was founded in Manchester in 1975, and soon moved to the University, where it ran until the mid 1980s, donating a number of works on paper to the Collection. As well as supporting regional artists in screenprinting, lino, etching and lithography, the founders Kip Gresham and Steve Currie also produced limited edition prints for established artists, such as Adrian Henri.

The printmaking collection continued to grow and remains an active collecting area today, including works by Victor Pasmore, Elisabeth Frink, Robyn Denny, Richard Hamilton, Patrick Caulfield, Bridget Riley, Patrick Huges and John Piper.

The University also began commissioning public sculpture, and now includes three works on Peel Park campus. The Grade II listed Untitled (‘the Minut men’), 1966/67 by William Mitchell stands outside Allerton Building; later joined by Karen Lyon’s Clasp (2007) at Mary Seacole Building, and Jai Redman’s Engel’s Beard (2016) at the New Adelphi Building.

Further developments

In the late 1950s, South African expressionist artist Albert Adams made his first visit to Salford, invited by local artist Harold Riley to spend Christmas there. Adams, who was denied access to formal arts education in South Africa due to apartheid policy, had moved to London in 1953 on a scholarship at the Slade School of Art, where he met and befriended Riley. Adams continued to live and work in London & the UK until his death in 2006, teaching and pursuing his own practice. A generous archive of his prints, paintings and drawings were acquired for the Collection from Adams’ surviving partner, Edward Glennon, through the Art Fund in 2012. It remains one of the most significant archives of his work, with a selection on permanent display at the Albert Adams room on campus.

In 2010 the University continued to expand in size and ambition – opening a campus at MediaCityUK at Salford Quays – a new hub of digital innovation and communication. A full-time dedicated Collections Curator was appointed for the first time, and the collection updated with recent works by David Hockney, Gilbert and George and Darren Almond; alongside examples from the YBA (Young British Artist) generation: Gary Hume, Gavin Turk, Damien Hirst.

The Collection also began to embrace video and moving image works, including Telephones (1995) by Christian Marclay, Fiorucci Made me Hardcore (1999) by Mark Leckey, and further works by Sam Taylor-Johnson, Robin Rhode, and Tracey Moffatt.

In the mid to late 2000s, the Collection was exhibited in display spaces at the Clifford Whitworth Library and Chapman Building, as well as around campus. The Chapman Building Gallery also hosted student, alumni, local and guest-curated exhibitions.

In 2012 the Collection was newly appointed Museum Accreditation status – a nationally agreed standard of good practice in collection care, administered by Arts Council England.

New Directions

In 2013, a new curatorial direction was implemented that both respected existing themes and reflected new ambitions for the University – as well as addressing gaps in other museum collections nationally. The collecting model also shifted away from purchasing existing work to commissioning and co-commissioning brand new works for acquisition – working closely with artists at all stages of their career.

The collection also initiated a number of key industry partnerships with museums, galleries, curators and arts organisations – allowing greater ambition, wider audiences, and shared resources and expertise through collaborative working. Recent partners include: Open Eye Gallery, Abandon Normal Devices Festival, Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA), Salford Museum & Art Gallery, Castlefield Gallery, Hot Bed Press, Islington Mill and Paradise Works.

The collecting policy now focuses on three key interlinked strands: From the North, About the Digital, and Chinese Contemporary Art, together aiming to tell a contemporary “story of now”.

‘Chinese Contemporary Art’ includes work from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the diaspora, and reflects an important international outlook for the University. Developed through a partnership with CFCCA since 2013, the collection explores the global influence of Chinese contemporary culture, with works by Cao Fei, Li Binyuan, Aaajiao, Sun Xun, Luke Ching, Yang Yongliang.

‘About the Digital’ considers the increasing impact of digital technology on our everyday lives, complimenting the reputation for digital research, study and innovation taking place on our campus. Artists include Thomson & Craighead, Mishka Henner, Rachel Maclean and Liam Young.

‘From the North’ continues our long-standing commitment to supporting artists living, working and thriving in the North of England, including Rachel Goodyear, Sarah Hardacre, Brass Art, Jai Redman, Darren Nixon and Louise Giovanelli.

What’s next

The University of Salford Art Collection continues to actively commission and acquire contemporary work under the three key strands of From the North, About the Digital, and Chinese Contemporary Art; in close collaboration with key industry partners.

We take an ambitious approach to collecting, working with artists at all stages of development, and increasingly acquiring works that are traditionally ‘difficult to collect’ – including digital, installation, performance and sound. We also continue to collect more work by women artists – as well as beginning to collect non-binary/queer artists – areas which are historically under-represented in our collection as it is in most museum collections nationally and internationally.

We also continue to work closely with our School of Arts & Media, to support teaching, learning, research, and real-world experiences, including through our pioneering Graduate Scholarship Scheme (now entering its 7th year) and student/alumni commissions. The collection is very much a resource and a catalyst for learning, and we contribute to a number of modules – including the new online course in Digital Curation, led by the Digital Curation Lab.

Additionally, we work together with University Chancellor and writer-in-residence Professor Jackie Kay CBE, on projects that bring art, poetry and creativity together.