History of the collection

Simmons & Simmons has been collecting modern and contemporary art since the 1980s. Initially we concentrated on purchasing small paintings and drawings by British artists of the modern period, (Bell, Bomberg, Fry, Redpath, etc) and prints by established contemporary British and American artists (Hodgkin, Kossoff, Lichtenstein, Oldenberg, etc).

Having gathered experience and been exposed to the work of young contemporary artists, I decided in 1993, to assemble for Simmons & Simmons a collection which reflected some of the energy, commitment and diversity of the emerging young British artists I had begun to see in various venues in and around London.

I discussed the concept of and possibilities for the collection with Thomas Dane, a private art dealer who has been a friend for many years. With Thomas's help, I tried to buy works of art which would fit the environment of Simmons & Simmons and yet would challenge the somewhat reactionary tradition of English corporate collecting.

In buying art for a law firm, it is necessary to operate within some sort of consensus. This poses problems, as many lawyers have fixed views on what pictures should look like. A number of my colleagues may think that some of the images here push through the boundaries of that consensus and beyond. However, good art is neither tame nor tameable.

It has been fascinating to see which of these pictures, as they were hung in our offices, created the most stir. Some partners thought that I had finally gone completely over the top when they saw two of Paul Graham's beautiful Television Portraits - I was accused of hanging enlargements of my family snapshots - these photographs now hang in our Lisbon office. Our first nudes - Angus Fairhurst must have arrived in London Wall very early one morning to make Man Abandoned - have caused less of a stir

One of the most enjoyable aspects of assembling the collection has been getting to know the artists. I have met almost all of those whose works we have bought and have been impressed by their commitment to their work and to each other.

As well as collecting their work, Simmons & Simmons has provided legal services for artists. In 1991 we advised Damien Hirst in relation to the Woodstock Street venue for his seminal In and Out of Love show. In 1995, Tracey Emin presented the firm with Outside Myself (Monument Valley, reading Exploration of the Soul) together with a copy of the book itself, for advice in relation to the Tracey Emin Museum. She subsequently paid us with her neon text piece Trust Me for further advice. Abigail Lane gave us For His own Good for legal work on a studio move. More recently Michael Landy presented us with one of the three drawings we now own relating to his Breakdown project in return for property law advice.

Our aim has been to bring to young artists a showcase beyond the galleries in which their work is usually seen, and to provide ourselves and our clients with the opportunity to engage with what I believe to be some of the most interesting elements in contemporary art practice.

The collection moves on. It remains true to its original objective of supporting early career artists, operating in the communities that we do, by acquiring significant work.

Stuart Evans