The UK is to be transformed into the world’s largest outdoor art gallery this summer, following a new project to “flood the streets with art”.
Art Everywhere was dreamed up by Richard Reed, the co-founder of Innocent Drinks, to bring huge reproductions of British art work to thousands of billboards and bus stops around the country.
One artist hopes the project, which is backed by the Tate, the Art Fund and the poster industry, will encourage children into art school.
The two-week campaign in August will concentrate on British art from the past 500 years in public collections around the UK. Reed said: “There is something so nourishing, exciting and surprising in seeing art in places you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see it.”
“Our vision this summer is that we want to flood the streets of the UK with the greatest art this country has ever created,” he continued.
“There is no agenda beyond that. It’s about putting beautiful wonderful things in as many places as possible to be seen by as many people as possible.”
Reed thought up the idea when walking to work at Innocent through Shepherd’s Bush in London. “For one month, in one year, someone had put on one poster site a beautiful picture. It wasn’t titled and didn’t have a logo on it. I never knew why it was there but all I knew was it was a beautiful thing,” adding: “It put a bounce into my step.”
The backers hope it will provoke debate and inspire people who would not traditionally visit art galleries and inspire the population. “It is art for everyone, everywhere,” Reed said. “Only good can come from promoting and celebrating the legacy that this country’s got in terms of art. It is a core competency of this country.”
Artists including Damien Hirst and Bob and Roberta Smith have supported the project. Smith said: “This projects sticks art out on the street and says: ‘This is yours’.” He hopes it might prompt children with little exposure to the works think that “art is cool. I hope kids will go to art school based on this project as well as galleries”.
It marks the first major visual art project to turn to members of the public to fund it, according to Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, with people asked to become “patrons”.
The posters have been donated for free, as have the billboard spaces, but the backers have to cover the cost of printing.
The crowd-funded model, starting at £3, will offer gifts for donations of a certain size including prints, t-shirts and bags. For £450 people will be able to get hold of a poster-sized work of art of their own. The works of art will currently appear on 15,000 boards with the option to produce more depending on the size of the donations.
The British public will be asked to vote for their favourite 50 works after a group of art directors and creators compiled a list of 100 pieces. That list will be published later this month.
It is currently a one off, but Reed said he hopes to bring it back. “We hope it will be successful and there will be more in the future. For the moment it’s this just this year.”
Sir Nicholas Serota, director of Tate, said: “At a time when people think about cuts it’s about opening up galleries, it’s about presenting British art to the audience that owns it – it’s all from public ownership – and reminding people these great things are in our museums and galleries and in most cases are free to see on any day of the week.”