The City Art Gallery is part of Southampton's civic centre. In 1930 work began on building a complex which would house all council departments. The centre was designed by E. Berry Webber and incorporated space for the town’s public library and art gallery. The gallery, originally with funding from two bequests specifically for art: Robert Chipperfield and Frederick William Smith, opened to the public in 26 April 1939. Loraine Conran (192-1986), who was later on the Executive Committee of the Contemporary Art Society, was its first curator. And, as stipulated in Smith's Will, the Director of the National Gallery, then Sir Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), also a long-term CAS committee member, was the special adviser, who encouraged an ambitious and varied purchasing policy.
The collection spans six centuries of European art, with over 5,300 artworks of national importance which qualified it for 'Designated' status in 1998 (administered by Arts Council England). Southampton City Art Gallery has benefitted from further significant bequests: Eric Milner White (1939), Arthur Jeffress (1961), Dr David and Liza Brown (2002) and the Philip Schlee bequest of over 100 prints, drawings and paintings (2013) and it now has a wonderfully rich collection of contemporary works acquired by a number of progressive curators including Margot Heller, Stephen Snoddy and Godfrey Worsdale.
For over twenty years Southampton has been collecting wall paintings including works by Daniel Buren, Michael Craig Martin, Douglas Gordon, Liam Gillick, Martin Creed and Jeremy Deller. More recent acquisitions have included a number of video installations by Roddy Buchanan, Georgina Starr, Gary Stevens, Hilary Lloyd, Paul Morrison and Graham Gussin of which many were gifted by the Contemporary Art Society who also most recently participated in the 2019 acquisition of the monumental textile, Odyssey (2003) by Alice Kettle. SCAG has an active contemporary exhibition space, programming a variety of temporary exhibitions throughout the year in conjunction with a number of other arts organisations.