News - Sculptures on Art UK

Eve by August Rodin

Yesterday saw the launch of Art UK's unique online sculpture project...

Press Release

The first thousand sculptures are now available online, free of charge, to people in the UK and all over the globe via An estimated 150,000 more will follow by the end of 2020.

These first images, and their associated digital records, form part of the largest sculpture cataloguing project ever undertaken in the UK. Most sculptures in the national collection have never been photographed before. By the project's conclusion, the UK will become the first country in the world to create a free-to-access online photographic showcase of its publicly owned sculpture, for everyone's enjoyment, learning and research.

Seeing the nation's sculpture collection online will prompt a re-examination of some of the burning issues affecting society today, raising complex questions. Why are there so few sculptures of women, and what is being done to redress the balance? Is it time to rethink how we display female nude sculptures in the post-#MeToo era? How do we talk about the difficult legacies of slavery and colonialism in Britain when sculptures commemorate those who profited from them? With the backdrop of Brexit, what does our sculpture say about us as a nation?

The first records include a sublime statue of Eve by Auguste Rodin outside Nando's in Harlow, a sculpture of the head of the Italian heiress and legendary patron of the arts, Marchesa Luisa Casati Stampa di Soncino, created by Sir Jacob Epstein, and a sculpture by Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout Movement.

The new sculpture records will join the 200,000 oil paintings already digitised by Art UK, and a growing number of works on paper. The project is part of Art UK's ambitious drive to democratise access to the nation's art collection, much of which is in store, and is often not accessible.

A diverse, global collection
The UK's national collection of sculpture is drawn from across the globe, comprising works from almost every country and era over the last thousand years. The sculptures represent a wide range of diverse cultures, from fifteenth-century Nigeria and Buddhist sculpture from south-east Asia to Italian Neoclassicism and twentieth-century America.

Transforming access to sculpture
Many sculptures in the national collection have not been catalogued or photographed before. Currently, only an estimated 1% of public collections have their full sculpture collection online, while many public monuments are not fully recorded and are at risk. The project will throw into sharp relief questions about how society cares for public art.

Opportunities to engage with sculpture are also scarce. This ambitious project will transform the way people discover and learn about their sculptural heritage and provide opportunities to visit sculptures – both in person and online.

An ongoing digitisation project
Art UK began photographing sculpture in April 2018 and new sculptures are being added to the website all the time. The digitised works are located inside galleries, museums and public buildings, as well as outdoors – in parks, streets and squares across the UK. A large team is travelling across the country to complete the project – dedicated and enthusiastic project staff, photographers and hundreds of volunteers.

The Art UK website shows information about the sculptures in public ownership across the country and additional information about the artists, the objects and subject matter. A range of writers will continue to tell the stories behind the works through online articles.

The project brings together sculptures from the length and breadth of the UK, from Shetland to the Channel Islands, from Northern Ireland to the Isle of Man. Art UK is collaborating with national collections including the V&A Museum, Tate, National Trust, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and National Galleries of Scotland, as well as thousands of regional and local institutions.

Learning and engagement
The project's extensive and ongoing learning and engagement programme is taking place across the country. Sixty sculpture-related films are being made with and by young people, linked to the National Curriculum. The Masterpieces in Schools initiative is taking 125 sculptures into primary and secondary schools for the day, inspiring a passion for art from a young age.

Project partners and funding
Seven partners are working alongside Art UK to deliver the sculpture project. Art UK is collaborating closely with major partner the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA) to catalogue and photograph outdoor public sculpture. Other key partners include the BBC, Culture Street, Factum Foundation, the Royal Society of Sculptors, the Royal Photographic Society and VocalEyes.

The total cash cost of the project is expected to be £3.8m (including in-kind partner contributions this amounts to £5.2m). The National Lottery Heritage Fund has generously agreed to provide £2.8m of the funding, and Art UK successfully raised the remaining £1m from a range of donors including the Scottish Government, Arts Council England, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the Garfield Weston Foundation.

About Art UK
Art UK is a cultural education charity on a mission to make the art in UK public collections accessible to everyone, for enjoyment, learning and research.

Find out more at

Image - statue of Eve by Auguste Rodin, Photo credit: Tracy Jenkins / Art UK
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