Art moves from the corridors of power to the walls of Whitechapel

Some of the works have adorned the walls of Britain's corridors of power for more than a century, seen only in passing by a privileged few.

Now leading figures in British politics are offering an unprecedented insight into the art displayed in government buildings, from a contemporary drawing in the culture ministry to an abstract sculpture in Downing Street.

The Government Art Collection, with London's Whitechapel Gallery, is staging the first public art exhibition in its 113-year history. Seven luminaries from the world of politics, including the Prime Minister's wife, Samantha Cameron, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, have chosen work for the show, which opened yesterday.

Mrs Cameron has chosen a bronze sculpture by Elisabeth Frink, oil paintings by LS Lowry and William Marlow, and a steel and wood construction by sculptor Mary Martin, all of which are normally hidden from view inside No 10.

Explaining her selection of the 1776 Marlow painting, A View of St Paul's and Blackfriars Bridge, Mrs Cameron said: "It is displayed in the White Room that is often used to welcome guests to 10 Downing Street. One of my earliest meetings in here was with the Sarkozys. Another draw of this painting is the River Thames which is hugely important to London and has become so for our family, now that we are closer to it and can walk along it more often."

The Lowry has been chosen to hang in Downing Street by most recent prime ministers, except for Tony Blair.

The Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey, chose drawings by the former Young British Artists Tracey Emin and Michael Landy. "I first met Tracey Emin at a dinner about two years ago," said Mr Vaizey. "I was terrified beforehand but she couldn't have been nicer. She has since become a great guide to art for me.

"I chose these pieces not just because I wanted to have some of Tracey's work, but also because I spent every summer with my auntie and uncle in Margate as a child, so there is a strong personal connection."

Other works of note include a 16th-century painting of Queen Elizabeth I by an unnamed artist, which has not been seen in public for 50 years. It was chosen for the exhibition by Lord Mandelson. The other selectors were the MI6 chief, Sir John Sawers, the British diplomat Dame Anne Pringle and the Labour peer Lord Boateng.

Two-thirds of the Government Art Collection, which contains 13,500 pieces, is on display at any one time in government departments at home and embassies abroad. The rest is kept in storage. In March, a cross-parliamentary group of MPs recommended that the collection be merged with other government art collections owned by the British Council and Arts Council.

The Critic's View by David Lee

LS Lowry, "Good Friday Daisy Nook"

Though an untypical Lowry in many ways, this is a quicker, livelier version of one of the Salford artist's best pictures. Though a grandee, Mrs Cameron was born near Scunthorpe, so the northern subject is probably the reason she chose it.

Zarina Bhimji, 'Howling Like Dogs, I swallowed solid air 1998-2003'

This depressing image could only be selected by a victim with something grim on his mind. Mr Clegg should probably be on suicide watch. It is a photograph which can mean whatever you want it to mean. That is, it can mean tomorrow the opposite of what you said it meant today. Conceptual art is convenient like that.

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable