Who is behind Art UK?
Art UK is a registered charity (previously known as the Public Catalogue Foundation
Project partners include the BBC, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Oxford University Press.
What is Art UK's purpose?
Art UK's mission is to open up public collections for enjoyment, learning and research. We support public collections to show their artworks online. Find out more on our about pages.
How do I search Art UK?
Artworks can be searched by adding words into the search bar on the homepage, or from the Artworks page, accessed via the menu in the top-right corner. There is also a site-wide search bar at the top of the menu.
Is there an Art UK app?
There is an Art UK guide featured on the Bloomberg Connects app, which is downloadable from the Google Play and Apple App stores. The Bloomberg Connects app can be downloaded by anyone, anywhere – as well as showcasing highlights from Art UK on our own guide, it features guides from some of our partner collections in the UK, and guides from international institutions.
Where can I find more guidance on how to use Curations?
Find more information on our Curations help pages.
What qualifies an artwork to be on Art UK?
The ambition behind Art UK is to show as much of the UK's national art collection as possible. Historically, the two main criteria for inclusion related to the ownership of the artworks and the medium of the artworks.
The principal focus of the initiative is artworks that are in public ownership. The vast majority of the artworks on the site meet this criterion. However, a number of important collections that are not in public ownership are also included.
The artworks that are in public ownership include those owned by the state through national museums and organisations such as the Government Art Collection, Arts Council England and British Council. We also include all the local authority museums. Museum collections that are owned by charitable trusts (a good proportion of UK museums) are also included, as well as artworks held by universities, hospitals, town halls, local libraries and other civic buildings. The art collections of the National Trust and English Heritage are also part of the initiative.
In addition, we have included a number of collections that are outside the definition of 'public ownership' for the purpose of public awareness and research. For example, this includes artworks in Bishops' palaces and Oxford and Cambridge colleges.
All the 3,400 or so art collections that feature on Art UK have signed an agreement to be part of the initiative.
Art UK primarily focused on artworks in oil, acrylic and tempera for two reasons. Firstly, because oil was the preferred medium of most well-known artists for hundreds of years. Secondly, the size of the oil painting collection was a practical proposition to digitise in its entirety.
From mid-2016 Art UK began accepting pre-digitised works in other mediums, such as drawings, prints, watercolours, works in mixed media and collage. Only Partners can upload existing digitised images of works on paper to show on Art UK.
Since the start of 2019, Art UK added thousands of sculptures, photographed as part of a national project to record the nation's sculpture collection of the last thousand years. This four-year project was partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Where does the information on Art UK come from?
The core information about artworks and venues has been gathered by Art UK directly from the galleries and art collections. Art UK depends on the participating collections to keep this information up to date.
Tags displayed on the website, providing keywords and subject classifications, are generated by the Tagger project.
Some of the information about artists' birth and death dates and nationality comes from ULAN (the Union List of Artists Names), under licence from the J. Paul Getty Trust. Biographical information about artists is provided by The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press).
How big is the UK national art collection?
There are over 200,000 oil paintings in the UK's national collection. To give a sense of scale, The National Gallery in London has around 2,300 oil paintings. So it's nearly a hundred times the size of that. We know this because we spent ten years digitising them, through visiting each of the collections that owned oil paintings.
However, the number of watercolours, prints and drawings run into the millions. The vast majority of these have not been photographed and many could have poor records. For now, our focus will be to encourage our Partners to upload to Art UK the records and photographs of those drawings, pastels, watercolours, photographs and prints they have already digitised.
The number of sculptures is thought to be in the low hundreds of thousands. The focus of our major sculpture digitisation programme was sculpture of the last thousand years, which we estimate to be over 50,000.
There are many other types of art, such as murals and photographs, that could legitimately be included in the project in the future.
Can I go to see all of the artworks on Art UK in real life?
At any one time, around 80% of the oil paintings in the national collection are not on public display. They are possibly being conserved or repaired, or are in storage (because of limited display space), or in a part of a building that the public cannot easily access.
Where we can, we've identified exactly where you can see an artwork, but in many cases the artworks are moved around too frequently for us to keep accurate information. If you want to see an artwork, it's important to check with the relevant venue before making your visit.
Are all the artworks by UK artists?
There are over 50,000 artists represented on Art UK. Whilst the majority of these are British artists, a good number are from other countries, including many well-known names such as Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh.
Why are some artwork records missing a photograph?
For almost all of the artworks on Art UK, there will be a photograph. Where there is not a photograph this may be because the artwork was not available at the time of photography, either because it was being restored or, in a few instances, was missing. Alternatively, the lack of photograph might be for copyright reasons.
Why are some artworks shown in black and white, and some obscured by pieces of paper?
Where artworks are missing or have been stolen, the best possible photograph on record has been reproduced. In some cases, this may be a black-and-white photograph.
When artworks – particularly paintings – are being conserved or repaired, they may have conservation tissue attached to the surface. The tissue was not removed when the paintings were photographed, as doing so may have damaged the artworks.
Why do very few artworks appear when searching by 'Style'?
Styles were only allocated to artworks after they have been through the initial Tagger website's tagging process. A great number of artworks have already been tagged.
How do tags end up on Art UK?
Tags (or the words associated with art that helps visitors to Art UK search art by subject matter) are generated through the Tagger website (the initial Tagger project was suspended in 2016 and relaunched in 2022). Tags have also been added with the help of an image recognition project run by the Visual Geometry Group, University of Oxford.
When active, the Tagger website invites contributors to choose their own words to describe what can be seen in a selection of artworks.
Each artwork will be tagged several times by members of the public. These tags are then fed through to the Art UK website.
How do artworks end up in public collections?
Artworks end up in public collections mostly either through people giving or leaving artworks to the collections, or through the collections purchasing artworks.
Can I contribute my own artworks to Art UK?
You could give individual artworks as gifts to a participating public collection, such as a local museum. If your gift is accepted, as long as the work is in a medium within the remit of Art UK, it may be added to Art UK at the collection's discretion.
Alternately, privately owned permanent collections (consisting of a number of artworks) may be added to Art UK for the benefit of wider public awareness and research. If you are in possession of a permanent art collection that you believe meets the remit of this initiative, and would like to feature this collection on Art UK, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Can I get involved in this project?
Yes, you can help us by tagging artworks at the Art UK Tagger website (when the website is active), or by telling us what you know about the UK's art collection through the Art Detective project.
Can I write for Art UK?
Art UK welcomes pitches from writers, primarily stories that bring the UK national collection to life. Stories are sent as part of our newsletter to Art UK's extensive mailing list, ensuring a broad reach. Please see our page on how to pitch for more information and guidance.
Who do I contact if I know something about an artwork on Art UK, or spot a mistake?
If you spot a mistake in an artwork record, or know anything about an artwork that has limited information, then please click 'Send information to Art Detective' on the artwork page. Relevant feedback will be passed to the institution that owns the artwork. Please be aware that given limited staff resources in many of the collections, only those suggestions that are adopted may receive a response. If you have information about a rights holder of an artwork, please email email@example.com
Why are some artworks presented differently on the websites of the institutions that own them?
We rely on the owning collections of the artworks to keep Art UK up-to-date. Information about artworks, such as artwork titles, has been standardised across the project, which may result in some discrepancies in terminology or presentation.
We are a gallery or collection and we aren't on Art UK.
Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am an artist, or copyright holder of an artist's work: what are the benefits of participating in the project?
The Art UK website and the artist's own page, in particular, will significantly increase access to the artist's work and raise their profile.
There will be a link from this page to the artist's own website if the web address is provided to Art UK.
The Art UK copyright team works hard to trace copyright holders of artworks in participating collections. Despite the team's utmost efforts, it hasn't proved possible to trace every copyright holder.
If you are an artist or copyright holder of artwork in UK public collections, whom Art UK has not yet contacted, please read our missing copyright owners page.
What can I do with the images on the Art UK site?
Art UK is committed to respecting the intellectual property rights of others. Please see Art UK's images and copyright guidance pages for information about how images on Art UK can be used.
I work on behalf of an art collection represented on Art UK. How can I keep Art UK up-to-date?
Participating art collections are encouraged to ensure their artwork and venue information on Art UK is up-to-date.
The Collections Portal was launched in 2016. The Portal allows art collections to add new works, and edit their existing artworks and venues directly. Collections that have signed up as Art UK Partners can upload pre-existing digitised collections of prints, drawings and watercolours using the Portal, but all collections can add new acquisitions in oil and acrylic, or sculpture.
If you are from a collection and would like access to the Collections Portal, please contact email@example.com
I work on behalf of an art collection represented on Art UK. How can I obtain high-resolution images of my artworks?
Art UK (as the Public Catalogue Foundation) photographed the majority of the artworks on the website. High-resolution photographs of the artworks were shared with every participating art collection.
If a collection requires a replacement set of images there may be a charge of £10 plus VAT. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
In most cases, art collections own the copyright to their own images on Art UK, but not the copyright to the artworks. If the artist of an artwork is in copyright, a collection may need to seek permission to reproduce an artwork. Please see the images and copyright guidance pages for more information.
Can Art UK help with valuations or identification of privately owned artworks?
We are sorry but this is not something that Art UK have the expertise or resources to help with.
If you are looking to have an artwork valued, you should go to a reputable auction house. For identification and further information, some local museums may offer this service.
Have you got a glossary of terms used on Art UK?
See Art UK's art terms pages for explanations of art-historical terminology, styles and movements.
I have a question about the Shop or purchases from the Shop
Please visit the Art UK Shop FAQ page.