British Museum treasures
take to the road

Tour of 'Spotlight' objects across multiple UK venues supported by the Art Fund Prize

The British Museum this morning announced a series of loans of single star objects from the collection to venues across the UK. A stunning Roman bronze of Herakles, the famous Romano-British Mildenhall Great Dish and the 'Swimming Reindeer', a masterpiece of Ice Age Art, among many others will tour to venues both large and small.

These 'Spotlight Tours' have been funded by the £100,000 Art Fund Prize the Museum received last year as 'Museum of the Year'. The award was presented to the Museum for its 'A History of the World' project which involved many hundreds of partners across the country. It is anticipated that the Spotlight Tours will run for up to four years under the Art Fund prize sponsorship.

The tour will commence with the loan of a bronze of Herakles to the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. The loan will be the centrepiece for a trilogy of projects planned for an Olympic season from 30 June – 15 September 2012. The bust of the 'founder of the games' will introduce audiences to the history of the Ancient Olympics. The muscled physique of the bronze Herakles shows the founder of the games at the tree of the Hesperides, holding three of the golden apples in his left hand upon the accomplishment of his final labour. These apples were the source of the gods' eternal youth, and Herakles' own passport to immortal life.

The Mildenhall Great Dish is a masterpiece of Romano-British craftsmanship, one of the most magnificent Roman silver plates to have survived from anywhere in the Roman Empire. Its exquisite design is dominated by the staring face of the god Neptune and a vivid scene of bacchanalian revelry featuring a legendary drinking contest between the hero Hercules and the wine-god Bacchus. The Dish will be lent to the Wolsey Art Gallery in Ipswich from 26 July – 23 October 2012 and will support the capital redevelopment of the gallery and museum.

The 'Swimming Reindeer' is an iconic artwork dating to 13,000 years ago. The intricately carved tusk depicting two reindeer will be lent to the Ice Age cave site at Creswell Crags in Derbyshire. The Reindeer was fashioned around the same time as Ice Age man was creating pieces of portable art which have been found at this site so the loan will complement the existing collection.

Other tours include the loan of the Gayer Anderson Cat to Shetland Museum and Archives in September 2012 - A sacred representation of the goddess Bastet, the object is a fine example of a bronze sculpture of a domestic cat, beautifully decorated with gold adornments. This will be a follow up loan from the Lewis Chessmen tour and will be part of a programme of bringing important objects from world cultures to Shetland.

The Sikh Fortress turban will be the first multi-venue tour under the programme and will be on loan to 7 partners from February 2013. Sikhism is one of the youngest world religions, founded in India about 500 years ago. Many Sikh men, and occasionally Sikh women, wrap cloth around their uncut hair, making a turban. This is an important symbol of their faith. This magnificent replica turban is a rare example of a distinct type known as a dastaar boonga, literally meaning a 'towering fortress'.The replica turban, along with the weapons and badge are being made available for loan as part of an Spotlight loan Tour which will be shown for up to 3 months in each of our 7 partner venues.

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum said 'A single object can tell multiple and interconnecting histories. It can be used to cast light on a local or global story, or give a new perspective within the context of a different setting or collection. The British Museum is committed to sharing its collection as widely as possible and we are delighted to be able to use the Art Fund Prize funding to collaborate with local partners on this series of tours.'

David Rhodes, curator at the De La Warr Pavilion said 'The Bronze Herakles will have a huge impact on our visitors through its impressive physical presence and will act as an introduction to the ancient Games. The Pavilion is known primarily as a centre for contemporary art so this sculpture will provide an usual and surprising juxtaposition for our visitors'.

The Great Dish from the Mildenhall treasure

The Great Dish from the Mildenhall treasure. Roman Britain, 4th century AD. Found in Mildenhall, Suffolk.


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For more information about the Art Fund and the Art Fund Prize for museums and galleries please contact Philip Abraham on 020 7225 4804 or

Notes to editors

The Spotlight Tours are organised through the British Museum’s Partnership UK Scheme. Partnership UK is the strategic framework for the Museum’s programme of engagement with audiences throughout the country. It includes single loans, touring exhibitions, Partnership Galleries and skills exchange. The Museum works with venues of all sizes to share its collection and expertise as widely as possible across the UK.

The Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for works of art and plays a major part in enriching the range and quality of art on public display in the UK. Supported by some 90,000 individual members, it campaigns, fundraises and gives money to museums and galleries to buy, show and share art, and offers many ways of enjoying it through the National Art Pass.

As well as supporting the buying of works of art, initiatives under its funding programme include: sponsoring the UK tour of the Artist Rooms collection so that it reaches several million people across the UK each year, and fundraising: two recently successful campaigns include bringing in £6 million to save the Staffordshire Hoard for the West Midlands and Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s The Procession to Calvary for Nostell Priory, in partnership with the National Trust. Over the past year, the Art Fund has given £24 million for works of art to 248 museums and galleries. The Art Fund is funded entirely by its art-loving and museum-going supporters who believe that great art should be for everyone to enjoy.
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The Art Fund Prize is administered by The Museum Prize, a charitable company created in 2001 by representatives of National Heritage, the Museums Association and the Art Fund and chaired by Lady Cobham. These organisations agreed to put aside award schemes they formerly ran (including National Heritage’s Museum of the Year) and lend their support to this single major prize.