The UK's collection of outdoor public sculptures is becoming more diverse, a survey by Art UK has revealed. Of the 59 new artworks it photographed and digitised in 2022, seven commemorate the contribution of Black people to British life and ten depict named women.
Artworks including three monuments to the Windrush Generation and sculptures commemorating women who have made significant contributions to music, palaeontology, writing and women's rights have helped begin to redress the lack of diversity in the UK's outdoor public sculpture. Last year, Art UK revealed that fewer than 2% of the UK's public sculptures of named men and women represented Black, Asian and other ethnicities, and only 17% were dedicated to named women.
Katey Goodwin, Deputy Director of Art UK, says, 'The sculptures unveiled in 2022 have made a small contribution to redressing the balance of people celebrated in public art, with more women being commemorated. 19% of the statues of named people unveiled in 2022 are dedicated to Black, Asian and other ethnicities, which is considerably higher than the overall percentage for all public sculptures recorded by Art UK. We hope that our Public Sculpture Annual Unveiling Reports will help make a valuable contribution to discussions around how public sculpture reflects the diversity of the UK.'
Artworks unveiled and catalogued during 2022 include The National Windrush Monument by Basil Watson, a statue of pioneering Black footballer Jack Leslie, and tributes to the palaeontologist Mary Anning, author Virginia Woolf and politician Baroness Margaret Thatcher. The new public sculptures unveiled in 2022 represent the work of 51 artists and several companies, with the survey revealing that the majority of artists are white (78%) and male (63%).
Katey continues: 'These statistics demonstrate that there is still some way to go to redress the balance between artists from more diverse backgrounds being commissioned to create public artworks.'
The sculptures can be searched for free on Art UK and the full report for 2022 is available to download. It is the first Public Sculpture Annual Unveiling Report since Art UK completed the digitisation of over 14,500 existing outdoor public sculptures in the UK. It shows that key topics explored by the new artworks included environmental themes and heritage and history.
Katey says, 'The largest number of public sculptures unveiled last year related to heritage and history. As our city centres and urban areas are redeveloped – with former centres of industry making way for new estates and social centres – these new sculptures are an important reminder to future generations of how our landscapes and lives have changed.'
The digitisation project is managed by Art UK's Public Sculpture team with volunteer photographers travelling the length and breadth of the UK to photograph public art. Since 2017, over 500 volunteers have given their time and expertise to help build a full record of British public sculpture. The ground-breaking initiative was named Digital Innovation of the Year 2022 by the arts magazine Apollo.
As Art UK moves into the phase of recording new installations as they are unveiled, it is possible that some public sculptures installed in 2022 have not been recorded by the charity's volunteer team. It invites the public to make contact if they know of a public sculpture that was unveiled in 2022 but has not been included in this report.
Gemma Briggs, Head of Marketing and Communications at Art UK