British art is back with a bang. Paintings have been plastered on thousands of billboards up and down the country. The scheme has been masterminded by smoothie maestro Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent Drinks.

Art Everywhere, which ran from the 12-25 August, is a charitable arts scheme setting out to promote British art, with the 57 exhibited great British works picked via a vote open to the public.

John William Waterhouse’s ‘Lady of Shallott’ was voted the public’s favourite work, closely followed by fellow Pre-Raphaelite, John Everett Millais’ beautiful and haunting ‘Ophelia’. Other works range from historical pieces by Masters like William Hogarth, to contemporary works by artists like controversial YBA-turned-establishment figure Tracy Emin.

…Reed pledging to plug any funding gap himself…

Art Everywhere drew on public donations to cover the works’ print and production, with support from national arts institutions such as the Tate and The Art Fund, and with Reed pledging to plug any funding gap himself. 

With arts funding increasingly under the spotlight- as classical musician Karl Jenkins recently warned as he pointed to Germany being ahead in its attitude towards culture – I caught up with Richard Reed to find out more about Art Everywhere.

…celebrate the creative legacy and talents of this country…

MouthLondon: Why British art as opposed to world art (or any other specific genre)?

Richard Reed: We wanted to celebrate the creative legacy and talents of this country.  Every piece was created and is owned by the nation.  My hope is that every country will follow suit and host a national exhibition showing off their work.  The more art that gets shown, the better.

ML: What originally inspired the idea of Art Everywhere and what do you want to see happening from this project?

RR: The inspiration came from a simple ‘wouldn’t it be great if…’ conversation.  Art Everywhere has no agenda.  Part of what makes it different is that we are not trying to get people to do or think anything, it simply exists because we believed it would be a good thing to have art out on the street.  But if people notice it, and are either inspired to go see some art in a gallery or even make their own, then that would be a lovely consequence.

ML: What’s your favourite piece of British art? Can you tell us if it made the shortlist?

RR: I love Hockney’s work and it is very much part of the final exhibition.

While Art Everywhere selections are plastered to billboards across the country, the scheme has been praised by establishment figures such as Stephen Deuchar – British art academic – who claimed it was great to see art moved out of its usual context to encourage people to think about it. Indeed, it appears to have earned praise as a pioneering way to expand interest in art, which can only be beneficial to many institutions on the brink or facing imminent funding threats.  Art Everywhere’s concept of bringing artwork into the spatial fabric of a nation has proved so far to be a smart move. Gauging its real impact through any change in museums’ visitor numbers will be testimony to this in weeks to come.

About The Author

Art historian, arts writer, presenter and illustrator. Communications officer for the Corps et Âme Gallery, Nîmes, France. @EmmaNDouble. For arts film reports, see here: http://www.youtube.com/user/emmandouble

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