Our Public Sculpture Recording Project to complete by 2020

For over 20 years the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association has been systematically recording monuments and sculpture in the public realm. Nearly 70% of the UK has now been covered. As each geographical area is completed the PMSA publishes a volume, written by sculpture experts, in a series entitled The Public Sculpture of Britain. Raising the funds to conduct the research necessary for this ground-breaking achievement has been a slow process, but now as a result of a £2.8 million National Lottery grant awarded to our partners, Art UK, the PMSA will be able to complete and update this project within the next three years.

Landseer Lion with base of Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, London
1. Sir Edwin Landseer, Lion on Nelson’s Column, detail, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2 (photo: Leonie Summers)

The PMSA is the only national charity devoted to protecting, preserving and promoting public monuments and sculpture. We help curate all those familiar sculptures in public areas which people walk past everyday, not just all the famous ones such as the Landseer Lions in Trafalgar Square, Alfred Gilbert’s Eros in Piccadilly Circus, and Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North near Gateshead, but the less well-known public sculpture too – the reliefs decorating buildings and the statues standing in town squares across the UK – the list is enormous. Public sculpture is an integral part of our heritage, it enriches our lives and plays a part which often goes unnoticed, but it has interesting and sometimes remarkable stories to tell.

Within Art UK’s new programme, the PMSA has the immense task of completing the cataloguing of the vast number of outdoor public sculptures you see everyday. As a result, we will finally be able to tell you precisely how many statues of notable corpulent Englishmen outnumber those of women and ethnic minorities, how many more statues of horses there are than of cats and dogs and how many more statues exist of Queen Victoria than any other British monarch!

Because of our incredible recording initiative, you will be able to find out from the PMSA website about every statue which has been erected in the British Isles over the last thousand years. This will link to Art UK’s ambitious programme, which also records sculpture inside public galleries. The total cash cost of the project will approach £4 million and will enable us to become the first country in the world to have a comprehensive illustrated online catalogue of our nation’s public sculpture.

Geoffrey Clarke Spiral Nebula
Geoffrey Clarke, Spiral Nebula, 1962, aluminium,
University of Newcastle, Newcastle-upon-Tyne,

(photo: © Historic England)

Not only will we hold this data, but thanks to this Heritage Lottery funding, it will be available for everyone to discover and read about on the PMSA website. There will be lots of pictures too, with photos of every single outdoor sculpture. So if you live in the UK, you will be able to read about the sculpture in your local park or town centre, find out why it was put there, who or what it represents and who created it .

Art UK is undertaking an outreach programme as part of this initiative and the PMSA is also launching an educational programme for schoolchildren and young people, working with sculptors, who will talk about and show them the public sculpture they have created.

Apart from Art UK, other partners who will also be closely involved in this project are the BBC, Culture Street, Factum Foundation, Royal British Society for Sculptors, Royal Photographic Society and VocalEyes.

J.H.J. Lewis OBE, Chairman, and Keir McGuinness, Vice Chairman, of the PMSA announced ‘We are delighted that this HLF Grant will enable the PMSA to work in partnership with Art UK, updating and completing our work of recording sculpture in the public realm throughout the United Kingdom’. While Andrew Ellis, Art UK Director, stated ‘This project … will be an astonishing digital showcase for the national collection of sculpture in all its rich and varied glory’. He added ‘All of us at Art UK are deeply grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and all the other contributors who made this huge undertaking possible’.