7th August 2017
UCL Art Museum
An exciting new project to digitise thousands of publicly-owned sculptures has celebrated its launch at the UCL Art Museum.

The Art UK Sculpture Project, which launched in July at the UCL Art Museum will run for three years, and capture seldom-seen works from collections across the country making them freely available online. The charitable organisation which has secured a £2.8 million National Lottery grant for the work, aims to catalogue around 170,000 sculptures. The project will focus on works from the last thousand years (which is probably enough to be getting on with!) exploring a hugely diverse range of cultures from twelfth-century Nigeria, Victorian Britain, and Tokugawa-period Japan, to Renaissance Italy and 1960s New York.

Keen followers of UCL Museums news may remember an equally ambitious project by the charity, to digitise 200,000 oil paintings of international significance from around 3000 British collections. You can see the results of the project here, and the UCL Art Museum pieces here.

Art UK banner

This project will focus attention on works of a three-dimensional nature, something that’s long overdue says Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund for London, “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.”

Front Portico sculpture

It will help in understanding the history of artists at UCL, says Helen Downes of the Art Museum, “Despite being part of the Slade curriculum since the establishment of the school in 1871, sculpture is severely underrepresented in UCL Art Museum’s collection, with only a handful of prize-winning works having been retained.  The new Art UK project may help us locate works by artists who won prizes but whose works were not kept by the school, helping us to build a much better picture of the teaching and development of Sculpture at the Slade School.

“As one of the first public collections to collaborate with Art UK (then the Public Catalogue Foundation) in 2005, to digitise and make publicly available our paintings collection, we know first-hand the benefits such a resource can provide. It facilitates research and enables us to make contact and broaden our network with other museums and collections.”

The ART UK website not only catalogues artworks, but provides opportunity for dialogue with the public about little-known pieces. Helen told us, “Through the Art Detective facility, people can provide us with information on works via the site which may otherwise remain unknown”. This crowdsourcing of expertise has been successful in identifying work by Walter Sickert, the locations of previously unknown landscape paintings, the longest-running investigation lasting more than a year and involving art historians from around the world. You can read the fascinating discoveries here.

Art UK map

Art UK’s Sculpture Project team will travel up and down the country to photograph the works, using 3D photographic techniques in some cases.  The project will also offer a UK-wide training and volunteering programme, offering nearly 2,000 people across the UK opportunities to gain photography, digitisation and other museum-centred skills, meaning important work can continue long after this project ends.


The first sculptures will be available to view online in early 2018. Watch this space for updates!


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