What is Art Detective?

Art Detective aims to improve knowledge of the UK’s public art collection. It is an award-winning, free-to-use online forum for specialists and others interested in resolving questions about the artworks that UK public collections hold. Please note that we do not answer enquiries about art in private ownership, although privately owned art may be included in our online discussions if strictly relevant to the topic under discussion (e.g. another version by the artist).

Send us information or propose a discussion

Please go to the Art UK page for the individual artwork and click on the 'Send information to Art Detective' link to submit your new information or question. This takes you to a drop-down list where you can choose your topic (artist/subject or sitter/execution date, etc) and enter information to send us. Your submission will be read by the Art Detective Manager, who will answer it or pass it to the collection for their comments.

Updates based on clear evidence can be made between Art UK and the collection without seeking wider opinion: e.g. an artist contacts us with the correct title or date of her own painting; a relative of a sitter corrects a spelling error in their name; the finding of a signature, supported by a contemporary newspaper report naming the artist.

Public discussions

Public discussions are for enquiries that are not easily answered, or for which there is currently no evidence. 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 and is 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 conclusion, informing everyone whether the Art UK website will be amended.

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 staff
  • Collection – the collections featured on the Art UK website
  • Group Leader – a subject specialist who leads a discussion linked to a particular group. Groups cover subject matter such as portraits, maritime history, Scottish art, etc.
  • The Panel – a small group of experts who might be contacted in exceptional circumstances

Regional groups

With one exception, the regional groups in Art Detective follow the boundaries of the nine official governmental regions of England plus Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 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 members of the public. Anyone is able to follow the discussions and registered users are able to suggest a discussion, or comment on discussions.