The UK is half way through experiencing the world’s biggest art exhibition. From the 12-25th of August, some of the nation’s greatest art is on display across 22,000 poster sites and billboards across the country. We take a look at this exciting twist in the history of Street Art and discover the UK’s top 10 artworks…
From Francis Bacon at the bus stop to Constable in the car park and Turner at the train station, Art Everywhere, intended to “flood our streets with art”. The ambitious art project was spearheaded by Richard Reed (co-founder of Innocent Drinks), in collaboration with the Art Fund, Tate, the poster industry, and 101 creative agency. It has received over 30,000 Facebook likes and over a thousand donations (raising over £30,000) to cover the paper and print costs, from around the world.
The public were asked to choose their favourite artworks from a long list of art from UK public collections. The final ‘likes’ were counted to create the Top 57 ‘exhibits’, which will be seen by an estimated audience of 90% of the UK’s adult population over the course of the show. The 22,000 works are on display from Banff & Buchan in Scotland to Torbay in Devon, and from Lowestoft in Suffolk to Belfast in Northern Ireland.
Our favourite Sir Peter Blake launched ‘Art Everywhere’ at London’s Westfield shopping centre, unveiling a reproduction of his work ‘The Meeting Or Have a Nice Day Mr Hockney’ on a large billboard. He proclaimed that the project was “a terrific idea” and said, “Almost 60 years ago with the stirrings of pop art, and what became my branch of pop art, was the idea that art should be available to everybody. All these years later, maybe this is the fruition of what I attempted to do.”
Peter Blake was joined by Cornelia Parker, whose ‘Cold Dark Matter’ was voted the 10th most popular work by online voters. She rejoiced in being not only the only living artist in the top 10, but the only woman. “It is just lovely to be up there, along with Bacon, and Freud – who is only very recently dead, of course,” she said, “I’m thrilled to be in the top 10, and to be the only woman.”
Damien Hirst, whose work ‘Paradasin’ (2004), was voted number 48 in the list said: “art is for everyone, and everyone who has access to it will benefit from it. This project is amazing and gives the public a voice and an opportunity to choose what they want to see on their streets.”
Having long advocated the democratic nature of Street Art and Pop Art, we are delighted to see great popular British artwork on the streets for everyone to enjoy! Of course, if you’d rather have these masterpieces on your interior wall instead of your bus stop, just take a look at our massive collection of art prints, from Peter Blake to John William Waterhouse.
The Top 10 British Masterpieces:
1. John William Waterhouse, The Lady of Shalott, 1888. Tate Britain, London
Inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s lyrical ballad of the same name, Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott painting portrays the lamenting woman whose unrequited love for Sir Lancelot brought about a curse which led to her death. The moment depicted occurs in the fourth part of Tennyson’s poem, when “at the closing of the day/She loosed the chain, and down she lay;/The broad stream bore her far away.”
Another Pre-Raphaelite, another unrequited love, another doomed woman; Millais's iconic painting Ophelia shows the scene in which Ophelia, driven mad by Hamlet’s taunts, falls into a brook and ultimately drowns. Millais’s treatment of the model for the painting has become infamous, as he forced the young Elizabeth Siddal to lie fully clothed in a tub of cold water while he completed his work.
3. Francis Bacon, Head VI, 1949. Arts Council Collection (on display at Manchester Art Gallery)
While in later life Francis Bacon would dismiss his head series was ‘silly’, his nightmarish paintings inspired by Velazquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent IX are powerfully unsettling. The head of the figure is almost entirely taken up by the screaming mouth, for which Bacon found inspiration in hand-coloured illustrations of medical books on mouth disease.
4. John Singer Sargent, Gassed, 1919. Imperial War Museum, London (on display)
Spanning over six metres across, Sargent’s epic war painting shows a group of soldiers heading towards a medical station in the aftermath of a mustard gas attack. Sargent spent time on the Western Front in 1918 after being commissioned to document the war and this record of his experiences was voted picture of the year by the Royal Academy of Arts in 1919.
5. Lucian Freud, Man’s Head (Self Portrait I), 1963. Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (on display)
Created when the artist was in his early 40s, this is one of Freud’s most painterly self-portraits, built up of heavily textured paint layered thickly across the canvas with bold contrasts of shade. His unromantic, almost grotesque treatment of the human form is evident in the severe rendition of his facial contours, and the ungainly angle and skeletal paleness of the arm thrusting into the composition like a punch.
6. JMW Turner, The Fighting Temeraire, 1839. National Gallery, London (on display)
Bequeathed to the National Gallery by Turner in 1851, this naval scene captures the moment of transition from a romantic past into an industrial future. The Temeraire, a warship which served at the Battle of Trafalgar, is depicted as a spectral form on the horizon, towed to its final dockyard by a smoke-belching tug. The Fighting Temeraire featured in the most recent James Bond movie, Skyfall, as the ageing agent contemplates his own retirement.
7. Alfred Wallis, Five Ships – Mount’s Bay, 1928. Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge
A Cornish fisherman who took up painting at the age of 70 following his wife’s death, Alfred Wallis developed a raw, unmannered style that won him many admirers. While this particular painting is not currently on display, an exhibition of Wallis’s works from the Kettle’s Yard collection is currently on show at the Time and Tide Museum of Great Yarmouth Life.
8. L.S. Lowry, Going to the Match, 1953. The Professional Footballers’ Association (on display at Tate Britain)
This classic cityscape won a Football Association art competition in 1953, which surprised L.S.Lowry, who wasn’t aware that he had been entered. The painting shows crowds of fans flocking to Burnden Park to watch a Bolton Wanderers match, and was praised by the PFA for capturing ‘the heart and soul of the game’. It is currently on show at Tate Britain’s Lowry retrospective, The Painting of Modern Life.
9. James Whistler, Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Battersea Bridge, c.1872–5. Tate Britain, London
Though born in America, James Whistler adopted London as his home in his mid-20s and spent the rest of his life working in the British capital until his death in 1903. Although Whistler struggled to gain acceptance in England – John Ruskin compared his exhibition to ‘flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face’ – he was embraced by the country’s national collections when the Art Fund helped acquire Nocturne: Blue and Gold for the Tate Collection in 1905.
10. Cornelia Parker, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991. Tate Collection
Originally created for the Chisenhale Gallery in East London, this installation saw Parker employing the services of the British army to blow up a garden shed, then reassembling the pieces within a room as if freezing the explosion in time. The resulting work, hung with a lightbulb at the centre as though recreating the moment of detonation, fills the surrounding room with dancing shadows.