Art Detective aims to improve knowledge of the UK’s public art collection. It is an award-winning, free-to-use online network that connects public art collections with members of the public and providers of specialist knowledge.

Launched in March 2014, Art Detective comprises a digital network built on top of Art UK's existing art object database. Art Detective is accessed through the Art UK website.

Propose a discussion

Please go to the individual artwork’s Art UK page and click on the 'Start a discussion on Art Detective' link submit your question. The first page you will see from the Art UK site is the ‘propose a discussion’ page. You can enter further information here, and there might be a conversation between you, Art UK and the collection who own the particular painting at this stage. Some discussions may not become public if they can be answered by Art UK or the collection that owns the painting. Following initial research by the Art Detective editors (based at Art UK), your proposed discussion may become a public online discussion. You will receive email alerts for any discussions you start or watch. To watch a discussion simply click the eye icon in the right-hand corner of the discussion.

Types of Art Detective contributors

  • Members of the public
  • Art UK
  • Collection – the collections featured on the Art UK website
  • Group Leader – someone who leads a discussion linked to a particular group. Groups cover subject matter such as portraits, maritime history, Scottish art, etc. Each Group Leader has an established reputation in the subject area
  • The Panel – a small group comprising respected academics and practitioners who will only be contacted if Art UK, Collection and Group Leader cannot come to a conclusion

Public discussions

These discussions are assigned to Groups with a specialist interest. Groups cover subject matter such as portraits, maritime history, Scottish art etc. Each Group Leader has an established reputation in the subject area, who will be responsible for leading discussions through to a conclusion. Firm or qualified conclusions will then be sent to the respective collection that owns the painting. Collections may decide not to accept this recommendation. Art UK will post the final conclusion, informing everyone whether or not the Art UK website will be amended.

New Groups will be added to Art Detective as it evolves. If Art UK feels that the subject of your proposed discussion does not fit into one of the existing Groups, there may be a delay in making it public as a new group is set up and a Group Leader appointed.

Regional groups

With one exception, the regional groups in Art Detective follow the boundaries of the nine official governmental regions of England (see http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/geography/beginner-s-guide/administrative/england/government-office-regions/index.html) plus Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The exception is that the official North West region is divided into two regional groups on Art Detective, ‘Cumbria’ (i.e. the county of Cumbria) and ‘The North West’ (the counties of Cheshire and Lancashire and the Unitary and Metropolitan Counties of the North West). In addition, for convenience we include the Isle of Man in the North West region and the Channel Islands in the South West.


Contributors include academics, the art trade, specialist curators, retired practitioners and informed members of the public. Anyone is able to follow the discussions and registered users are able to suggest a discussion, or comment on discussions. Academic support is provided by History of Art staff at Glasgow University. More information can be found on Who is involved in Art Detective?


The principal outcome of Art Detective is improved knowledge of the UK’s public art collection. Significant discoveries are written about in the Discoveries section of the site.