Approximately 5,000 murals across the UK will be recorded, photographed, and added to a free public database as part of a three-year-initiative by the art education charity, Art UK.
The announcement from Art UK, made on February 6, said that the murals documented by volunteer researchers and photographers will include a large number of painted works, as well as sculptural murals made of concrete, brick, wood, stone, tile, and other materials.
Some of the works by the infamous street artist Banksy will also be included in the project, according to The Art Newspaper. The Art UK database already has a photograph of Escaping Convict at Reading Gaol, a spray-painted image of an inmate escaping from a now-defunct prison using knotted sheets of paper spooling from a typewriter. According to Art UK, the brick wall in Berkshire allegedly shows “a depiction of Oscar Wilde who was incarcerated in Reading Gaol for two years in 1895.”
In its announcement, Art UK noted how “buildings and housing estates are demolished to make way for new developments meaning that many murals have been lost. We will record the murals as they look now, to provide a record if they are removed, defaced, or suffer environmental damage.”
Murals by Banksy often receive press attention when they are damaged, defaced, and/or removed, such as the case of the 20-foot seagull in Suffolk, Valentine’s Day Mascara in Margate, and Morning is Broken on a 500-year-old farmhouse in Kent demolished in March last year.
The Art Newspaper also reported that many murals in Northern Ireland are also expected to be digitized by the Art UK project, but that documenting them will require “particular sensitivity” due to the decades of “violent unrest between Catholic and Protestant communities, known as the Troubles”.
This three-year initiative will also include a wide variety of programming, including artists workshops, audio descriptions for blind and partially sighted people, mural trails, as well as learning resources for teachers.
Art UK’s project partners are CultureStreet, an educational film-making organization; and VocalEyes, a UK arts charity focused on identifying and removing barriers to access and inclusion for blind and partially sighted people.
Funding for the project, which runs until December 2026, comes from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Pilgrim Trust and Historic England.