London Art Fair’s 2018 Museum Partner was Art UK – the digital platform for the UK’s publicly funded art collections. The registered charity’s mission statement of transforming public access to the nation’s art collection is achieved through digitising artworks and creating exciting opportunities for public interaction with art both online and offline.
About Art UK
“Launched in 2003, Art UK – previously known as the Public Catalogue Foundation – is a small charity with a national and global reach. Our mission is to transform online access to the UK’s national art collection. Our work includes photographing and digitising art collections and producing stimulating content to inspire discovery and learning.
Our website artuk.org is the digital showcase for the nation’s art. It is the most complete representation of the UK’s public collection online, showing over 200,000 paintings by nearly 40,000 artists. The art is held by museums, universities, town halls, libraries, hospitals, even a lighthouse and is spread over 3,250 venues from the Shetland Islands to the Isles of Scilly. Much of the art is not usually on display and a high proportion had not been photographed before we started our work in 2003.
At the moment the website mainly show oil paintings with a small and growing number of watercolours and other works on paper that collections have uploaded. We will soon be adding the nation’s sculpture collection. The first of some 170,000 sculptures from inside collections and outdoors in our parks and squares will join the site in early 2018. This project will connect the public with what is arguably the greatest public collection of sculpture in the world.
Our charity’s work brings the nation’s art to life through technological innovation, learning resources, lively stories, debates and discoveries. Art UK also supports the sustainability of thousands of public art collections across the UK through the provision of shared digital infrastructures. Most of the 3,000 + public art collections would not be able to put their art online without the help of Art UK.
Showing art online creates substantial public and economic benefit. It transforms access to artworks and collections across the UK and allows audiences to find out about artworks in store, whilst encouraging visits to the venues themselves. Furthermore, it opens up wonderful learning opportunities for audiences of all ages, inspires creativity and is vital for research. It also offers collections important commercial income generating opportunities. Art UK is a unique charity playing an indispensable role supporting the nation’s public art collections.
A key aspect of our work involves liaising with artists and estates, particularly around the area of copyright to ensure that we have the rights to show their art on online. We are grateful to the thousands of artists and estates as well as the Bridgeman Art Library who do not charge us for reproducing artworks in copyright online. For many of these artists and estates, in return, the Art UK website constitutes an important audit of where their art is held around the UK.
We also are always keen to ask artists to write for the Art UK website about artworks and artists that interest them. When talking with artists, it is fascinating to go beyond their own practice and explore their own tastes. To see what piques their interest, what they admire in other artists, what they dislike. The results are often surprising.
So for our first ever exhibition we wanted to put contemporary artists at the heart of it. Frankly, with over 200,000 artworks to choose from, we also needed help in making the selection! We therefore decided to ask five artists to make a small selection of C20th and C21st works on the Art UK website based around a theme personal to each of them. To tie the five selections together into a cohesive exhibition we asked the wonderful Kathleen Soriano to be our curator.”
Andrew Ellis, Director
About the exhibition
In Art of the Nation – Five Artists Choose, Art UK brings to the London Art Fair 2018 an eclectic selection of artworks from around the United Kingdom. Drawing on the wide-ranging interests of contemporary artists, our exhibition opens a window on the rich and varied public art collections that can be visited across the length and breadth of the country. It represents the first ever collection of work brought together for actual display across the length and breadth of the country by Art UK.
Our charity works principally in the digital world so the organisation of this exhibition has been a fascinating ‘real world’ adventure!
Our five chosen artists – Sonia Boyce, Mat Collishaw, Haroon Mirza, Oscar Murillo and Rose Wylie – all responded with enthusiasm to the idea. The artists each selected works from both the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, based around a theme personal to each of them. The themes speak of personal interests and individual passions and certainly make for an insightful display that highlights the range of work in public collections across the country. Indeed, the range of themes is wide and sometimes quirky.
Sonia Boyce has taken her theme from a painting by Rasheed Aaraeen in the Walker Art Gallery entitled Boo/69 and goes on to base her selection on the words Boo-Betty-Abstract-Grid that relate directly back to that piece which is shown below.
Mat Collishaw takes a dark look at a shady world of murder and violence, with strong sexual undertones. The works chosen cover over a century of painting, from William Orpen in 1905 to Avis Underwood in 2010.
Haroon Mirza makes a commentary on selection itself by surrendering his own to the daily shifting algorithms used in Google searches, revelling in the notion of choice as pre-determined by a machine that only recognises it in a mathematical and unemotional way.
In his selection, Oscar Murillo has taken inspiration from a Palestinian poem. His theme is illustrated by artworks of military manoeuvres in the Middle East, soaring jets and placid Arabic villages.
Finally, Rose Wylie has focused on the idea of ‘leaving the door open’ and challenges the canon and shared systems of value that place too many artists on the outside of the art world.
Kathleen Soriano, previously Director of Exhibitions at the Royal Academy, curates the exhibition – creating a cohesive and captivating display.
The London Art Fair museum partnership, first introduced in 2014, offers a London platform for significant regional collections of Modern British art. Positioned alongside established commercial galleries at the Fair, the Museum Partner’s uniquely curated exhibition offers an opportunity to experience the heritage, quality and significance of regional collections and works. It provides collectors gathered in the capital every January with a point of comparison between museum collections and commercial galleries and provides visitors with the opportunity to see regional museum works brought to London. The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield (2014), Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (2015), Jerwood Gallery, Hastings (2016) and The Lightbox, Woking (2017) have so far shown.
Museum partner of London Art Fair in 2017, The Lightbox gallery and museum, in Woking celebrated its tenth anniversary with a unique exhibition by The Ingram Collection of Modern British Art titled ‘Ten Years: A Century of Art’. Curated by Peter Hall, Curator of The Lightbox, and Jo Baring, Curator of The Ingram Collection, the exhibition demonstrated the breadth, depth and quality of The Ingram Collection, telling the story of a century of British Art rich in innovation and discovery and displaying works by twentieth century artists including Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson and Eric Ravilious.