Since Art UK launched in 2016, we have been committed to publishing about the many, many thousands of artworks represented on the site. These stories are written by freelance writers, kind volunteers, the Art UK team – and a few well-known voices, such as Mark Gatiss, Tracy Chevalier and Michael Palin. We also publish posts by museum and gallery staff: stories which shine a spotlight on a unique aspect of the collection in their care, or new exhibitions and acquisitions.
Subjects covered are as richly varied as the UK's art – from Surrealism to saints, from Rococo to ruins, from Cubism to colonialism. You can search stories by topic, art term or by story type: this includes artwork, artist, collection or exhibition in focus, alongside general features on broad subjects.
With the launch of our Curations tool in 2020, we introduced a new kind of art content to the site. Curations are groups of artworks – digital exhibitions – which anyone can make and share using their Art UK login. Curations allow for different ways of viewing art: in groups, on a timeline, or as an image-led 'showcase'. Anyone, anywhere can publish a Curation, including our collection partners. Browsing Curations, you might come across a few recognisable names, such as Joan Bakewell or Phill Jupitus...
Together, these different voices make for a treasure trove of information on art, all free to access. While Art UK's content provides a signposted way into the (perhaps intimidatingly large) database of artworks and subjects, you might still need a pointer on where to start exploring. Below we've included some of the most popular stories and Curations on Art UK.
Art is everything
Some people find art intimidating or think it's just not for them. Yet the UK's art collections are a window into society and culture. Any subject – such as history, fashion, science or sport – can be explored through the lens of art. We have published content that ties art to subjects such as mental health, chocolate, visions of hell, hot air balloons, dogs, ghosts, Purim, urban regeneration, Māori facial tattoos, codpieces, pseudonyms, red hair, mermaids, migration, Medusa... and many, many more.
Art collecting through the centuries reflects the UK's patriarchal and colonial history, but between the portraits of monarchs and aristocrats are more diverse stories waiting to be discovered. It's encouraging that some of our most-viewed stories and Curations are about underrepresented histories, such as stories about women artists, Black artists, or on LGBTQ+ themes. From Saint Sebastian as a gay icon to the Tahitian woman behind Gauguin's paintings, and from the eight women artists of The National Gallery, or British migrant artists to Welsh artists, Art UK content shines a light on important aspects of art history that have been historically overlooked.
Scandal and intrigue
Secrets and lies, renegades and trailblazers, dark and disturbing stories: what better way to get people reading about art? Our readers enjoy learning about eccentric figures, controversy and unusual aspects of history through the UK's public collections. Great examples are stories on Anne Lister, known as 'Gentleman Jack', scandalous nudes, Lot and his daughters, Cleopatra, and the private lives of Millais, Ruskin and Effie Gray.
All about artists
With over 50,000 artists represented on Art UK, we are the place to visit to learn about them: from famous artists, such as Kyffin Williams, Bridget Riley and L. S. Lowry, to lesser-known painters, photographers and sculptors, such as the 'Pitmen Painters', Maud Sulter, Brian 'Freddy' Foskett and Edmonia Lewis.
We also publish interviews with contemporary makers, such as Barbara Walker, Grayson Perry, Chila Kumari Singh Burman, and Flora Yukhnovich – learn what inspires them and how they approach creativity.
Museums, galleries and other venues
Art UK represents over 3,400 venues, in places all across the UK, from Shetland to the Scilly Isles. Curators, interpreters and other staff from museums and galleries frequently share their news of upcoming exhibitions and new artwork acquisitions through stories and Curations. Recently, for example, we've published the National Portrait Gallery's story on Madame Yevonde, and The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation's story celebrating 60 years of Jason and the Argonauts.
Curation 'Exhibitions' are virtual versions of art displays across the country, made directly by collection staff. These Curations allow someone in Scotland, for example, to experience an exhibition on display in Cornwall, making art truly accessible. In fact, most of our top-viewed Curations were created by our collection partners: such as Museums & Galleries Edinburgh's Curation all about their city, or The Cooper Gallery's 'Light and Soul – Early Impressions of The French Landscape'.
Collection staff and other arts professionals also share what it's like to be in their shoes for a day through our 'Being...' series.
We're thrilled to have reached this milestone however the number of stories and Curations is growing all the time: subscribers to our newsletter receive weekly roundups of new content, so it's worth signing up, and following @artukdotorg on social media.
The Art UK team