Adverts become artwork to boost UK museums

Peter Blake's "Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" is one of the art works that will be on display
Peter Blake's "Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" is one of the art works that will be on display

Forget subliminal messaging or party political broadcasts; for the next two weeks, over 20,000 of the U.K.'s billboards - usually the preserve of the monolithic advertising industry - will be home to works of art.

Called Art Everywhere, the project will see 57 pieces of famous artwork adorn billboards, bus stops and supermarkets, as well as 2,000 London buses and 1,000 black cabs.

The group behind the scheme – led by Richard Reed, the founder of Innocent Smoothies, - crowd-sourced£35,000 to fund the project. Big names in the art world – such as the Art Fund and Tate – are also involved.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, told CNBC that securing the space for the artwork was the most important initial step.

"Richard Reed, who is the man behind the idea, approached Posterscope, which is the organization that effectively controls post sites across the U.K., and asked them whether there was any possibility of free space for a project like this," he said.

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"They offered two weeks in August, which are presumably a pretty quiet time, but is impressive nonetheless."

Art Everywhere then polled the British public to choose their favorite works, with John William Waterhouse's"The Lady of Shalott" proving the most popular, followed by John Everett Millais' "Ophelia" and "HeadVI" by Francis Bacon. Works by other artists, such as David Hockney, Damien Hirst, William Hogarth and Tracey Emin also feature.

While not a commercial enterprise, Deuchar did emphasise that the project was about enticing more of the British public into the nation's galleries and museums.

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Three of the world's top five most-visited museums are based in England, and nearly 40 million people visit the U.K.'s national museums and galleries each year, according to Britain's Department for Culture, Media & Sport.

However, while the British Museum is still the country's most visited attraction, its visitor numbers fell by 4.7 percent on the year in 2012, to 5.6 million visitors.

Deuchar said the project offers potential visitors a taste of what they are missing out on.

"Museums are doing pretty well - but this project promises to reach something like 90 percent of the adult population of the U.K," he said. "Now, I can tell you that 90 percent of the adult population do not regularly go to museums and do not regularly look at British art."

"So there is no shadow of a doubt that this project will introduce people who don't regularly or ever go to museums, to works of art," he said.

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