Outdoor advertising sites to be used to display art collections

Thousands of British paintings will appear at bus shelters, roadside hoardings and billboards across the UK this summer as part of what is billed as the country’s biggest public art exhibition.

Art Everywhere, an idea of Richard Reed, who co-founded Innocent Drinks, which is supported by the Tate galleries and ArtFund, a fundraising charity, will use more than 15,000 outdoor advertising sites to display works from national collections.

For a week from June 21, the public will also be asked to select works from 100 chosen by experts and organisers through Facebook, the social networking site. The resulting 50 will be put on display for two weeks over August – unaccompanied by logos or advertising.

“It’s going to brighten up people’s commutes,” said Mr Reed.

The outdoor advertising industry has agreed to donate the sites for free, amounting to a value of around £3m for the fortnight. Glen Wilson, managing director of Posterscope, an outdoor advertising agency, said part of the motivation had been to show off the virtues of poster sites. “These are the ultimate arresting images. What better way to promote the medium?”

More posters could be put on display if the public responds to a crowdsourcing campaign for donations from £3, which covers paper and printing costs for one poster. Those making higher donations of £15 or more will be able to choose a limited edition work by the artist known as Bob and Roberta Smith.

Damien Hirst, the British artist, gave his backing. “This project gives the public an opportunity to choose what they want to see on their streets.”

Organisers said art from the medieval to the modern would be represented. They were unable to rule out selection leading to nude artworks – or works featuring subjects often seen as obscene by artists such as Gilbert and George – and from finding their way into the top 50 and on to being viewed by roadsides.

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