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Art UK Sculpture: Connecting UK Communities with their Sculpture Heritage Project Summary


Art UK Sculpture is a national project using digital and physical engagement to transform the way people access and learn about sculpture.

Unequivocally a global collection and arguably the finest anywhere, the UK’s sculpture heritage hails from across the world, providing insights into diverse cultures. A significant proportion, however, is hidden away and lacks records, images and online access. Many public monuments are not fully recorded and are at risk.



Art UK Sculpture will create a comprehensive information audit of UK public sculptures, enabling collections to provide online access to their works and people to engage with them. Existing, new and diverse audiences will share knowledge, exchange opinions and visit objects, both in-person and online, through a free, sustainable, participatory website – artuk.org – and discover the extraordinary sculpture they own. Communities and schools will be connected to their sculpture heritage, and training and volunteering activities will support skills development.


Art UK


The Art UK Sculpture project is being developed by Art UK (formerly the Public Catalogue Foundation), a dynamic arts charity based in London, but with a national and global reach. Its mission is to transform access to the UK’s publicly owned art, much of which is not on display, for enjoyment, learning and research. Its priorities lie in mapping art collections, encouraging public engagement with them and improving our knowledge of these collections.

 1Your Paintings was Art UK's flagship website showing the nation’s entire oil painting collection in public ownership, photographed by Art UK over a ten-year period. Working closely with collections up and down the country, Art UK completed the digitisation programme in late 2012, by which point it had recorded over 210,000 paintings from over 3,000 collection venues. The website was built in partnership with the BBC. Other initiatives include Your Paintings Tagger, Art Detective and Masterpieces in Schools.

Your Paintings was replaced in early 2016 with a new, improved version of the website - Art UK. The new site is a unique and powerful digital showcase of art in the UK for audiences across the world. Go to www.artuk.org to find out more.

Europa, Edward Carter Preston, c.1933, Leeds Museums & Galleries, LEEAG.SC.1999.0035 Art UK Sculpture Project Partners

The project will be run and managed by Art UK, in partnership with the following organisations:

- The BBC is Art UK’s media partner and will promote the sculpture project by creating relevant editorial content using images and information from Art UK, as permitted by participating collections. Such content might relate to topical events, BBC learning guides, data visualisations or broadcast.

- The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association aims to heighten public appreciation of Britain's public sculpture, and to contribute to its preservation, protection and promotion. The PMSA will be working with Art UK to catalogue and photograph sculpture outside in the public realm.

- The Royal British Society of Sculptors will assist with providing contemporary sculptors to take part in Masterpieces in Schools and Sculpture Around You activities, and the sculpture films, bringing a wide range of people into contact with sculptors working in the UK and their practice.

- Culture Street will be making films about sculpture and creating online resources with and for young people across the UK throughout the project.

- VocalEyes will be creating activities and events specifically for blind and partially sighted people, using sculpture to encourage access and engagement. They will also be providing visual awareness training for staff from Art UK and participating collections.

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- The Royal Photographic Society will be helping with the recruitment, training and management of the team of Volunteer Photographers who will photograph public sculptures across the UK.

- Factum Foundation will be involved in 3D imaging of selected sculptures in collections and in public across the UK.

Project Funding

The total cash cost of the project is expected to be £3.8m (including non-cash 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 remainder from a variety of donors. These include Arts Council England, the Scottish Government, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Pilgrim Trust, many other grant-giving trusts and over 70 individual and corporate donors.

Which types of sculpture will the project include?

Art UK Sculpture focuses on the UK’s publicly owned sculpture heritage, held within museums and public buildings and seen in outside spaces. Arguably the finest national sculpture collection in the world, it is drawn from almost every country and era, offering insights into cultures as diverse as 12th-century Nigeria, Victorian Britain, Tokugawa period Japan, Renaissance Italy and 1960s New York. It ranges from monuments to sporting achievements and heroic acts to votive figures from Tibet, busts of Scottish Enlightenment figures and the Angel of the North, all of which tell stories relevant to Britain’s heritage today.

Left: Sir Edward Elgar, Jemma Pearson, 2005, Hereford. Right: A Man Can’t Fly, Ondre Nowakowski, 1989, Stoke-on-Trent.

The project will cover sculpture of the last 1,000 years, created within and outside the UK, including non- European sculptural objects. The chosen definition includes statues and busts (abstract and figurative), and maquettes. All will be included irrespective of condition, perceived quality and whether they are in store or on display.

What will the Art UK Sculpture project do?

Art UK Sculpture will transform access to sculpture by digitising the UK’s sculpture heritage in public ownership, supporting custodians to update or create full records about their sculpture, and enabling people

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to participate in this process, to learn about and engage with sculpture in their communities, and be active participants in Art UK Sculpture online.

An extensive outreach programme of events and activities across the UK will be designed to awaken understanding of our common ownership of our sculpture heritage and how communities can access, engage with and learn about it. With a focus on participation and discovery, it aims to engage the broadest possible audiences with this cultural asset, both during the project and beyond. A key objective is to reach young people and BAME communities who are currently under-represented among Art UK users.

All sculptures will be freely accessible on Art UK; a democratic, sustainable website, enabling users to research, browse, collaborate and be inspired. The site will function as a major participatory online resource to support the needs and interests of researchers at all levels, whether individuals who are beginning to be interested in art, school children or students, curators or experts. They will be able to curate their own collection for reference or sharing, tag sculptures with key words and categorisations to help other Art UK Sculpture users find objects, contribute knowledge about objects through Art Detective, and suggest web links to other relevant resources.

Paul Robeson, 1927, Jacob Epstein, York Art Gallery, YORAG:863

The project will provide collections with an important, timely opportunity to audit, catalogue and photograph their sculpture objects, something few institutions have the capacity or resources to achieve. Detailed recording of public monuments and sculptures will provide comprehensive data to support and enhance local authority Historic Environment Records (HERs) and asset registers; enable these heritage items to be logged on Geographic Information Systems (GIS); identify owners; assess condition to inform conservation, maintenance and restoration needs; improve management and security of public art; identify immediate at-risk items; and promote the development of local sculpture trails.

The project will provide a range of in-person outreach, engagement, volunteering and training activities to create a lasting legacy of involvement in our sculpture heritage.

A series of ‘Sculpture Around You’ events in shopping malls, town centres, hospitals, transport hubs and sports centres across the UK, will take sculpture to people who might not normally engage with art or visit a museum, breaking down physical and psychological barriers to art and culture. Featuring practising sculptors and hands-on activities, these events will showcase local collections and items chosen by volunteers and the public. A number of the ‘Sculpture Around You’ events will use sculpture to provide access to arts and heritage to blind and partially sighted people, in partnership with charity VocalEyes.

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Masterpieces in Schools will take sculpture out of museums into classrooms to engage children with 3D art and encourage teachers to use sculpture to illustrate, enliven and inspire their teaching around art history and other Key Stage 1-4 subjects. Building on the success of previous Masterpieces in Schools events, new activities will encourage innovative learning, interaction and collaboration. 3D digital technologies, such as Minecraft and 123D Sculpt, can replicate and explore sculpture heritage, techniques, styles and shapes. Students can also curate digital stories about their reaction to local sculptures. Practical sessions, facilitated by visiting sculptors, will breed familiarity and comfort with 3D media.

Schoolchildren in Stretford, Greater Manchester, taking part in Masterpieces in Schools, October 2013

A series of short films will showcase sculptures, including interviews with children about what they have learned, as well as teachers, sculptors and curators. All films will have open licences and teachers’ resources linked to the National Curriculum. 25 films will be shot by Culture Street and 25 further films will be shot by children at school, guided by Culture Street-led workshops and online tutorials. A further 10 films will focus on contemporary sculptural practice.

Training opportunities include photography students working alongside photographers in public collections gaining practical experience for employment in the arts sector; trained volunteers to research and photograph outdoor sculptures and monuments; trained volunteers to assist with handling sculpture objects and collections care; and placements for young people from state schools to experience digitisation in a local sculpture collection.

Staff in participating collections around the UK will be given the opportunity to receive free training in digitisation and sculpture care, providing the skills to take their own photographs of their collection to add to Art UK. Training in audio description and visual awareness, run by VocalEyes, will also be available for collection staff.

Social media tools will stimulate debate around sculpture and heritage, encouraging people to share artworks and their feelings about them, and multiple channels will be used to share the Art UK Sculpture experience of digitisation, photography and engagement activities with the sector and public, from events and blogs to talks and publications.


Further Information


To find out more about Art UK Sculpture please contact:

Katey Goodwin, Deputy Director, Art UK, 18 Percy Street, London W1T 1DX Tel: 020 7927 6250, Email: katey.goodwin@artuk.org

Follow our blog: www.artuk.org/about/blog Instagram: @artukdotorg

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