UK’s Most Significant Street Art Will Be Digitized Over the Next Three Years

Owl mural by Curtis Hylton

“Owl” by Curtis Hylton, 2022, Royal Mews, Southend, Essex (Photo: Tracy Jenkins, courtesy of Art UK, © the artist)

By its very nature, street art is ephemeral. Due to weather, theft, or demolition, mural art is vulnerable to many potential risks. But as a result of the work of one organization, street art in the United Kingdom now has a permanent home online. Art UK is a digital archive with over 300,000 works belonging to public art collections nationwide. Thanks to a new three-year initiative, 5,000 pieces of street art across the UK will be added to the collection. This ensures that their legacy remains long after they may fade from view.

The program began in January 2024 and includes many different types of street art. While painted murals will form the bulk of what will be digitized, Art UK will also be documenting “sculptural murals in concrete, brick, wood, stone, tile, and other materials.” By adding this work to its database of institutional public art, Art UK is also helping elevate what can sometimes be seen as an outsider art form.

Once the street art has been added to the online database, its record will be continuously updated. This means anyone can discover if the work has been removed or defaced. Each piece will also be incorporated into Art UK's public education programming, which includes workshops, films, accessible audio versions of the record, and learning resources for teachers.

Battle of Cable Street Mural in the UK

“Battle of Cable Street” by Desmond Rochfort, Dave Binnington, Paul Butler, and more, 1976–1983, St George's Park, Cable Street, Tower Hamlets (Photo: Anthony McIntosh / Art UK, © the artist)

“As well as highlighting more well-known artists and adding to their legacy, this project will reveal the stories, artworks, and practice of lesser-known muralists, who may not previously have received as much attention,” shared the organization in a statement.

Some of the work entering the database dates from the 1960s and 1970s, while other pieces are much more recent. By incorporating painted murals into its scope of work, Art UK is acknowledging the increasing importance of street art. It is also another sign of the increased acceptance of street art in the contemporary art world.

Banksy, of course, is present in the database, along with a mix of established and lesser-known muralists. You can take a peek at what's been digitized already and keep checking back as more is added.

Art UK is embarking on a three-year project to digitize the country's street art.

Smug mural in Glasgow

“Saint Enoch and Child” by Smug, 2018, George Street / High Street, Glasgow (Photo: Gordon Baird / Art UK, © the artist)

Phelgm mural on the Isle of Man

“Viking Longboat Mural” by Phelgm, 2022, Shore Road, Peel, Isle of Man (Photo: Patricia Tutt, © the artist)

Over 5,000 painted murals, public sculptures, and mixed media work will be added to the platform.

Bordalo II mural in Aberdeen

“Endangered Dreams Mural” by Artur Bordalo, 1998, Aberdeen (Photo: Andy Hayes / Art UK, © the artist)

Helen Bur Street Art in Essex

“Market People” by
Helen Bur, 2021, St Martin's Square, Basildon, Essex (Photo: Tracy Jenkins / Art UK, © the artist)

Art UK: Website | Facebook | Instagram
h/t: [artnet]

Related Articles:

The Rijksmuseum Has Made 709,000 Artworks Available for Free Online

Online Database Features Overlooked Female Artists from 15th-19th Centuries

Dutch Museums Unveil Free Digital Collection of 1,000+ Artworks by Van Gogh

This New Digital Archive Preserves Black Lives Matter Protest Art From Around the World

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content