Hampshire County Council began acquiring modern and contemporary art in the late 1980s. Over a period of 20 years, a significant body of work has been acquired and the collection now consists of approximately 400 works. The purpose was then, as it is today, to enhance council buildings across the county creating a welcoming place for both visitors and staff. Unlike many collections, approximately 90% of the works are hung at any one time. Since November 2014, day to day care of the collection has been undertaken by Hampshire Cultural Trust.
Initially the work of significant British artists was purchased, predominately limited edition prints by artists such as Bridget Riley, David Hockney, Henry Moore, Victor Pasmore and John Piper. In recent years, there has been a move towards purchasing works from Hampshire-based artists or of Hampshire scenes. This explains the mixed nature of the collection as it is today.
The collection is made up of work by British artists. The majority of the works are original prints and paintings with smaller numbers of drawings, sculpture, glass, textiles and ceramics.
Modern British prints make up just under 40% of the collection. This includes work by artists of national and international standing and is representative of significant movements in British Modern and contemporary art. Notably British Modern Abstract artists such as John Hoyland, Terry Frost, Victor Pasmore and Gwyther Irwin; British Neo-romanticists such as Graham Sutherland, Cecil Collins, John Piper, Ceri Richards, Keith Vaughan and John Tunnard and one notable Op Art print by Bridget Riley. There is also a selection of prints from late 20th century sculptors including Dame Elizabeth Frink, Henry Moore and Antony Gormley.
The paintings within the collection are an eclectic mix of oil, acrylic and watercolour. Many are from artists living and working in Hampshire or the surrounding areas including a bequest of five works from Nick Schlee in 2007. There are also some high quality works of local landscapes by eminent artists including ten works by Annabel Gault of the area around Butser Hill. The collection also includes two stunning paintings by internationally renowned artist Richard Eurich RA OBE, a series of five cloud studies by Brendan Neiland RA and more locally based artists such as Christine Hughes, Jim Woolley and Catherine Barnes.
Although most of the works in the collection are paintings and prints, there is a small selection of three-dimensional works. This includes Hampshire Hog (1915) by nationally renowned artist Eric Gill, a small bronze work St Catherine's Hill by Zoe De L'Isle Whittier, and three beautiful glass bowls by Ruth Dresman commissioned for the refurbishment of Serles House, Winchester, in 2004.