Art UK has created a digital gallery of 200,000 works in public collectionsby Emma Crichton-Miller / March 28, 2016 / Leave a comment
Last month at the Houses of Parliament civil servants, curators, journalists and art lovers gathered to celebrate a major landmark. The Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) was relaunched as Art UK. For the last five years, the PCF has partnered with the BBC to create the Your Paintings website, the digital portal which gives access to the UK’s national collection of 200,000 oil paintings.
Much more than a simple name change, this relaunch was akin to Cinderella donning her party dress and going to the ball. The entirely worthy, not for profit, enterprise of cataloguing and digitising all the oil paintings in public ownership, whether in art galleries, council offices, obscure museums, schools or hospitals, has been transformed into the radical act of giving these art works back to the public. In the magnificent surroundings of Speaker’s House, where Augustus Pugin’s decorative detail testifies to Victorian pride in the public realm, this once shy charitable endeavour was revealed as a ground-breaking cultural initiative, in tune with visionaries of both past and present.
Until 2011 the PCF had beavered away quietly at its exhaustive task, publishing beautiful catalogues county by county. Some works had been hidden in storage for more than a generation, or located in offices not usually open to the public. Scholars and curators knew the value of this resource, but, beyond the major institutions such as the V&A, the National Gallery and the behemothic Tate, few smaller public art collections had the funds to make this information available to the wider public.
However in 2011 the PCF, led by Andy Ellis, teamed up with the BBC to provide a digital platform for all 3000 of their partner institutions. With wit, ingenuity and creativity, Your Paintings invited the public to explore the vast national storeroom of art held in its name, and to access, at will, the different layers of interpretation and supplementary material provided both by the galleries and by the BBC.
You could go…