Heritage News United Kingdom

Plan to catalogue UK’s (indoor) public sculpture

As it wraps up a project to document the nation’s paintings, the Public Catalogue Foundation turns to sculpture

Recording public art belonging to the Society of Antiquaries, London. Photograph by Ander McIntyre

After its project to record the UK’s 210,000 oil paintings in public collections, the Public Catalogue Foundation is now turning to sculpture. The plan is to produce the first illustrated database of sculptures in galleries and public buildings. No other country has attempted this.

Andrew Ellis, the director of the foundation, estimates that there will be about 70,000 sculptures to cover. He wants to deal with those that are kept inside buildings, rather than in the open air (outdoor works are currently being recorded by the Public Monuments & Sculpture Association). Antiquities would also be excluded, so the foundation’s catalogue might begin with the medieval period. Work by both British and foreign sculptors would be covered.

Although the current paintings project is published in both book form and online online, the sculpture catalogue would be web-only. This reflects the fact that the web has overtaken print publication for this sort of catalogue, but it also offers further advantages. It would be feasible to reproduce three images of a sculpture (front, side and back), and include the capability to block out the background when a work has been photographed in situ.

Ellis says his plan is to move on to sculpture, although details of the project have yet to be finalised. An application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the sculpture project is due to be submitted within the next few weeks.

The proposal has already been endorsed by Penelope Curtis, the director of Tate Britain and an expert on British sculpture of the 20th century. “Sculpture is often overlooked, not least because paintings are easier to photograph and reproduce, so I am please that the foundation is now hoping to cover it,” she says.

Meanwhile, the paintings project is now coming to an end, a decade after the foundation started work. The catalogue covers 210,000 paintings, 80% of which are not on display. The works are by 45,000 artists in 2,800 collections. The last of the images are due to be put online next month. So far 40 volumes have been published in book form, with a similar number still to come. It is expected that most of these will be published next year.

For more info: www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings or www.thepcf.org.uk

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