New Chair at ArtUK

May 30 2022

Image of New Chair at ArtUK

Picture: ArtUK

The British charity ArtUK, which, building on the work of the Public Catalogue Foundation, photographs and displays online digital images of every publicly owned oil painting and sculpture in the UK, is looking for a new Chair. It's a fantastic charity, the first of its kind in the world, and aims to connect the public to our fantastic national collections. I have benefited from it directly many times, as the first stage to finding discoveries made on the BBC programme I co-presented, Britain's Lost Masterpieces.

I note that in the job spec, there is this:

The successful candidate will be very familiar with the UK museum world and the visual arts scene and have a good understanding of the potential for digital to connect the public with the art they own.

Which indeed goes to the heart of ArtUK and all it does. There is one thing which I hope the new Chair might think about, however; British museums' adherence to an outdated model of selling images means ArtUK can only ever show lower resolution images, because museums restrict the size of image ArtUK can use. This means that using the ArtUK website will always be of limited use, because you can't truly enjoy the art.

And sadly, ArtUK doesn't challenge this model, but reinforces it. It recently submitted a report to the body aspiring to look again at how we promote our national collection which accepts image restrictions. And, by selling image licenses through its website, it directly profits from image fees, even for academic publications. I struggle to see how any of this fulfils the mission of 'digitally connecting the public with the art they own'.

The deadline is 1st June.

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