IWM holds a world-class collection of modern British and international art and has been commissioning and collecting contemporary art since the First World War. The collection is founded on the British Government war art schemes of the First and Second World Wars and comprises over 20,000 works reflecting on the causes, course and consequences of conflict from 1917 to the present day.
IWM has commissioned high profile artists through the Art Commissions Committee since the early 1970’s. Initially artists were commissioned to create work of a documentary nature, but in the last 30 years there has been a shift towards more personal, artistic responses. Fore example, in 2003 Steve McQueen undertook a commission to Iraq and more recently Rosalind Nashashibi traveled to Gaza.
The IWM Contemporary programme ran from 2013-17 and was dedicated to exhibiting artists whose work created an important dialogue about the way we view war and conflict. Exhibited artists included Omer Fast, Jane and Louise Wilson and Hew Locke.
In 2017-18, IWM staged its largest contemporary art exhibition to date, Age of Terror, Art Since 9/11. The exhibition showcased over 40 international artists who have responded to conflict since 9/11 including Ai WeiWei, Mona Hatoum, Grayson Perry, Jenny Holzer, Gerhard Richter, Alfredo Jaar, Coco Fusco and Jack & Dinos Chapman.