Art UK launch sculpture project

“Sculpture is something you bump into when you back up to look at a painting” – Ad Reinhardt

Yesterday saw the launch of Art UK’s unique sculpture project. The first 1,000 sculptures are now available online via and an estimated 150,000 more will follow by the end of 2020.  Warrington Museum & Art Gallery are one of Art UK’s founder partners and they visited us last year  to photograph a selection of our sculpture – we hope that ours will be added very soon.

Eve, bronze bronze by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Photo credit: Tracy Jenkins/Art UK.

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 it’s publicly owned sculpture, for everyone’s enjoyment, learning and research.

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 sculpture project is part of Art UK’s ambitious drive to democratise access to the nation’s public art collection. Many sculptures in the national collection have not been catalogued or photographed before and many public monuments are not fully recorded and are at risk.

The nation’s collection of sculpture is drawn from across the globe, comprising works from almost every country and era over the last thousand years. They represent a wide range of diverse cultures, from 15th century Nigeria and Buddhist sculpture from Southeast Asia to Italian Neoclassicism and 20th century America. The collection reflects a strong global influence compared to the oil paintings in the national collection which are primarily European.

Benin Head with Headdress by an unknown artist. Photo credit: Towner

This does, however, raise some complex questions. Why are there so few sculptures of women in British collections, 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 difficult legacies of slavery and colonialism in Britain when sculptures often commemorate those who profited from them?

Art UK’s sculpture project aims to give the underappreciated medium teh same status as the oil paintings already on their site. This will change people’s perceptions and allow aculpture tto take its rightful place at the centre of the art world.