Masterpieces in schools project

Major UK sculpture project launches online

Today (22 February 2019) sees the launch of Art UK’s unique sculpture project. 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 sculpture project is part of Art UK’s ambitious drive to democratise access to the nation’s public art collection, much of which is in store, and is often not easy for people to find and see.
Sculpture is often seen as the poor relation of ‘flat’ art – the American artist Ad Reinhardt famously teased that ‘Sculpture is something you bump into when you back up to look at a painting.’ Art UK's sculpture project will give this underappreciated medium the same status as the oil paintings already on the site. This will change people's perceptions and allow sculpture to take its rightful place at the centre of the art world.

Learning and engagement

The sculpture 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.

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.

To find out more about Art UK and the Art UK Sculpture Project, visit their website

Image credit: © Art UK and Leeds Museums and Galleries