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Art UK Launches Website Providing Online Access To public Art Collections

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Art UK an ambitious vision to create universal online access to the UK’s public art collection has launched a new website. This is a collaboration involving 3,000+ public collections, this revolutionary project, unique in the world in its scale and ambition, puts the UK at the forefront of digital innovation. Art UK will give audiences at home and abroad unprecedented access to the UK’s public art collection, much of which is not normally on view. For students, teachers, tourists and anyone interested in art or its subject matter, Art UK is a truly immersive online experience. 

Art UK launches the nation’s entire collection of publicly-owned oil paintings – over 200,000 in number. From this summer, watercolours, drawings and artworks in other media, already digitised, will be progressively added by Art UK Partner Collections. In 2017, Art UK will start work on photographing the nation’s collection of sculpture from the last thousand years, some of it in 3D. The Heritage Lottery Fund has already earmarked £2.8m towards this. Art UK is now raising further funds. 

Art UK gives the British public unprecedented access to the art they own. It encourages audiences, young and old, to look at art in pursuit of their interests using thousands of tags created by members of the public. Guest contributors from all walks of life will help Art UK tell the stories behind artworks. The BBC will curate content from Art UK on bbc.co.uk and encourage its audiences to find out more by visiting Art UK. 

On Art UK anyone can become a curator, create online exhibitions and share the art they discover with friends and colleagues across social media. They are also asked to turn Art Detective and help collections identify missing artist attributions and sitter names. There have already been exciting discoveries in this area including previously unknown paintings by Van Dyck and Gainsborough. 

The first website with the aim of reflecting an entire nation’s collection of art, Art UK offers extensive links and pathways to learn more about the nation’s art. Links to Oxford University Press’s suite of online products give UK public library cardholders free access to 55,000 biographies in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, as well as content from Grove Art Online. 

Art UK is also a resource for tourists with an interest in art, who can plan visits to destinations around the UK, building itineraries around particular artists or collections. Hundreds of Partner Collection events and exhibition listings are provided by Culture 24. 

An early version of the site was published on bbc.co.uk under the name ‘Your Paintings’. Over almost five years the website gained a regular audience of some 300,000 visitors per month. Building on the success of Your Paintings and responding to the needs of audiences and collections, Art UK has been developed by the Public Catalogue Foundation – now also renamed Art UK. The Art UK platform will be operated on behalf of 3,000+ UK public collections allowing them all to reap the benefits of scale and technology. Joining the public collections online are a number of important private collections, including, for example, all the Oxford Colleges. Other important private collections will be invited to join. 

The Art UK Shop will open this summer to generate much-needed income for the Partner Collections through the sales of prints and other merchandise. To date over 500 collections have signed up to ART UK as Partner Collections, paying a subscription and benefitting from the promotion and income-generating potential opened up by the site. 

Art UK represents a collaboration involving thousands of participating collections, the BBC, funders, universities and other institutions. Notable among these are Culture 24, Oxford University Press, the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, Glasgow University, the Visual Geometry Group at Oxford University and the Citizens Science Alliance based at the Astrophysics Department, University of Oxford. 

The cost of building the Art UK website was principally borne by Arts Council England with additional funding from the Scottish Government and a private charitable trust. The Partner Collections and corporate and individual Benefactors will play a key role alongside other funders and commercial income in ensuring Art UK is sustainable. The content of the Art UK website is the result of many years of digitisation undertaken by the Public Catalogue Foundation mostly with private funding.

Visit Art UK Here

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