LONDON, June 21, 2017 /PRNewswire/ --
The UK is set to become the first country in the world to create a free-to-access online photographic showcase of its publicly owned sculpture.
Today (21 June 2017) Art UK announced the start of a major new project - supported by a £2.8 million National Lottery grant - to catalogue the national sculpture collection. In this highly ambitious initiative, around 170,000 sculptures - located inside galleries, museums and public buildings and outdoors in parks, streets and squares - will be displayed on the artuk.org website for enjoyment, learning and research.
This is Art UK's second major digitisation programme, and follows another world-first - its internationally acclaimed oil paintings project which has made over 200,000 publicly owned oil paintings from some 3,000 British collections freely available online.
The national sculpture collection is drawn from almost every country and era, offering insights into cultures as diverse as twelfth-century Nigeria, Victorian Britain, Tokugawa-period Japan, Renaissance Italy and 1960s New York - a truly global collection and arguably the greatest in existence. However, a significant proportion is not on display, and very little of it has been photographed. Furthermore, many public monuments have not been thoroughly catalogued and are at risk of decay or of being lost to public record.
Art UK's three-year project is focusing on sculpture dating from the last thousand years, held in public collections and locations across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. All objects - irrespective of condition or perceived quality - will be recorded and most will be photographed, some in 3D.
The first photographic records will appear on the Art UK website in early 2018. Once online, Art UK's Art Detective network of crowd-sourced expertise will help collections fill in missing information about the sculptures.
A significant proportion of the project's cost will be spent on exciting training, learning and engagement programmes. Art UK's Masterpieces in Schools will follow up the successful initiative to take oil paintings into schools with 125 great, publicly-owned sculptures being transported to primary and secondary schools around the country for a day of hands-on art history. Contemporary sculptors and curators will help Art UK take selected pieces into shopping centres and public libraries, while young people will create films about sculptures. There will also be specially designed events and activities for blind and partially-sighted people.
A UK-wide training and volunteering programme, benefitting nearly 2,000 people across the UK, will offer many opportunities to gain photography and digitisation skills as well as other museum-centred skills.
The total cash cost of the project is expected to be £3.8m (including in-kind partner contributions it amounts to £5.2m). The Heritage Lottery Fund has generously agreed to provide £2.8m of the funding, and Art UK has successfully raised the remaining £1m from a variety of donors. These include Arts Council England, the Scottish Government, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, several other grant-giving trusts and over 70 individual and corporate donors (see artuk.org for a full list).
Seven partners will work alongside Art UK to deliver the project: the BBC, Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, Culture Street, Factum Foundation, Royal British Society of Sculptors, Royal Photographic Society and VocalEyes.
As part of the project Art UK will be opening an office in Glasgow, with the aim of bringing the organisation and its work closer to Scottish collections and audiences.
Sculpture has often been seen as the poor relation of 'flat' art, with the American artist Ad Reinhardt famously teasing that "Sculpture is something you bump into when you back up to look at the painting." Art UK's latest project aims to make online access to the UK's publicly-owned sculpture as easy and fulfilling as it is now for paintings, and thus deal conclusively with this long held received wisdom.
Andrew Ellis, Art UK Director, said 'This project has been four years in the planning. The result will be an astonishing digital showcase for the national collection of sculpture in all its rich and varied glory. All of us at Art UK are deeply grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and all the other donors who have made this huge undertaking possible.'
Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund for London, said 'Wherever you are in the UK you can find public sculpture, quietly existing within our parks, museums and squares. Sculpture can be extraordinary, emotive, even challenging and yet, many of us are unaware that this sort of world-class artwork is on our doorstep and free to access. Thanks to National Lottery players we're able to help Art UK raise awareness of our sculpture heritage by developing its interactive website with exciting activity to get people involved, inspired and exploring this fascinating collection.'
Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said 'The Scottish Government is committed to increasing opportunities for everyone in Scotland to access and engage in cultural activity, so I'm pleased to support Art UK's project to make sculpture accessible to people across the UK through the internet. I also welcome Art UK's intention to open a Glasgow office and work more closely with Scottish collections.'
Cornelia Parker, Sculptor, remarked 'It's such wonderful news that Art UK has successfully raised the funds to put online the nation's sculpture collection. I can't wait to use the resource.'
Fellow sculptor Richard Deacon added 'I supported this project from the outset since it seemed a great way to make the incredible richness of sculpture in British collections better known. Since then, with the amazing advances in 3D scanning and digital representation, it seems more and more like an idea whose time has come.'
Professor David Ekserdjian, Art UK Trustee and Chairman of the Art UK Sculpture Steering Panel, stated 'Art UK's paintings project has already proved quite how many Sleeping Beauties were waiting to be kissed into life, and now it is the turn of sculpture, which is even more likely to have been overlooked or forgotten.'
J. H. J. Lewis OBE, Chairman, and Keir McGuinness, Vice Chairman, of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association commented 'We are delighted that this HLF Grant will enable the PMSA to work in partnership with Art UK, updating and completing our work of recording sculpture in the public realm throughout the United Kingdom. In addition, as part of Art UK Sculpture, it will be fully available on the internet, which has long also been our wish.'
Go to www.artuk.org to find out more and join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using #ArtUKsculpturevulture
Established in 2002, Art UK (previously known as the Public Catalogue Foundation) is a dynamic arts charity with a national and global reach. We are working to transform access to the UK's publicly owned art collection, much of which is not on display. We do this through digitising artworks and creating exciting opportunities for public interaction with art both online and offline. Our work contributes to the promotion and sustainability of the UK cultural sector and facilitates collaboration between cultural organisations and the public at large. Successful partnership and collaboration are a hallmark of the organisation. Our website, www.artuk.org, is a digital showcase for the UK's public art collections and vital digital infrastructure for the UK's cultural sector.
Between 2003 and 2012 we digitised 212,000 oil paintings from 3,200 locations across the UK as part of our Oil Paintings digitisation project - a unique national achievement. Our Masterpieces in Schools and Art Detective initiatives provide online and offline opportunities for learning and participation and contribute to collection knowledge. Art Detective won both 'Museum Professional' and 'Best of the Web' awards at the 2015 Museums and the Web conference in Chicago. Masterpieces in Schools won the 2014 Collections Trust Participatory Practice Award, the judges commending it as 'greatly imaginative and highly innovative, with very significant impact'.
As a result of the oil painting digitisation project and these records being put online, a small number of significant re-attributions of paintings have been made including to Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Jordaens, Pieter Breughel the Younger, Claude Lorrain, Allan Ramsay and possibly Raphael. Art UK's Art Detective network has since its launch in 2014 had over 100 discoveries of new information about paintings (artuk.org/artdetective/discoveries ).
In February 2016, we launched the Art UK website - a free-to-access digital showcase for the UK's public art collections. This site replaced a predecessor site, Your Paintings, which had sat on bbc.co.uk. Art UK was not merely a replacement for Your Paintings; it was a fundamental redesign and expansion of its technological capabilities, commercial potential, contextual content, interactive features and ambition. The BBC remains our lead partner and brings Art UK to the attention of BBC audiences through links and curated content on bbc.co.uk. Since launch the Art UK website has received over 2.5 million unique users with over 50% coming from overseas. Art UK puts the UK at the forefront of cultural sector digital innovation and was highlighted as an example of digital innovation in the Government's March 2016 Culture White Paper.
Hundreds of Partner Collection events and exhibition listings, provided by Culture24, encourage cultural tourism and support local and regional collections across the UK. Guest contributors help us tell the stories behind artworks. Since September 2016, watercolours, drawings and artworks in other media, already digitised, have started to be progressively added to Art UK by those 650 collections that have become paying Art UK Partners. The Art UK Shop is being piloted with a public launch planned for October.
Art UK won Digital Innovation of the Year at the 2016 Apollo Awards, with Apollo noting that the site 'makes the nation's art available in a way that has no international rival in terms of its ambition, generosity of spirit, or coherence'. Art UK also won the Arts/Culture category and was runner up for the Website of the Year award at the Good Web Guide Awards, 2016. Go to www.artuk.org to find out more.
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @artukdotorg
The Heritage Lottery Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk.
SOURCE Art UK