The artist may launch additional projects within his Rebirth concept throughout the life of the Margate Public Sculpture Project: Sophia. These additional works may be used to promote Sophia at the discretion of the artist


Around 80% of our nation’s collection of paintings is currently sitting in storage. Locked in vaults and packed away in basements, works that were deemed worthy of preservation are hidden away from public view because of limited resources and a shortage of exhibition space. Created with the intent to be displayed, they are now lost in darkness; their story fading from memory.

Taking influence from Penn’s sculptural concept, Rebirth, the Hidden Art Project will bring new life to “lost art” in a contemporary format that translates to display spaces all over the world.

Reimagining each work’s method of display by meticulously casting its frame in crystal glass, the resulting ornate structures will form the basis of a figurative sculpture. Following the format of works within Penn’s Rebirth series, the sculpture will sit at the centre of the display space drawing a new focus to the cast frames it encompasses.

Playing on the notion that the past can be a catalyst for creativity in the present, the historic works of art once boxed and stored are now intrinsically linked with a current work that brings the focus back to the history of their narrative. It is the artist’s hope that by refashioning the method of display it will ignite within the audience a desire to begin their own investigation into the artists and movements that have shaped modern art and design.

An artistic “rebirth”, the project will facilitate the discovery of forgotten works and promote the opportunity to display them in the space that surrounds the sculpture. To achieve this, Penn will not remove any works already displayed within the gallery, but instead draw attention to the hidden works he has uncovered.

For the duration of the project a temporary smoked glass wall will be installed in front of a permanent collection at the National Gallery. Acting as a distraction from the current exhibited works, it will be lit with Penn’s signature lighting techniques and channel the focus to the “hidden art” hung in front of it. The works are now not just displayed for the first time in decades, but also reinvigorated by a contemporary method of display.

Sitting at the centre of the gallery, Penn’s figurative Rebirth sculpture will appear as though erupting from the cast crystal glass frames. Drawing the viewer in for closer inspection, the piece will inspire interaction by drawing them back to the hidden art in order to discover which work within the surrounding exhibition is displayed within the original frame.



In tandem with the Hidden Art Project at the National Gallery, Matthew Penn will take over the Fourth Plinth installing a figurative sculpture that appears as though attempting to haul the National Gallery off its foundations and reveal the artworks hidden within its bowels. To convey this motivation and illustrate the amount of art unseen for decades, the figure itself is perched atop an overwhelming number of empty ornate frames.

To enhance the audience’s experience of the installation an app will offer further insight into notable works of art currently in storage at the National Gallery. Utilising augmented reality, the app will superimpose the names of thousands of artists in a double helix atop the rope connecting the figure with the National Gallery, and the user will be encouraged to navigate the virtual installation to discover images and facts about the artists featured.

The synergy between the sculpture on the Fourth Plinth and the Hidden Art Project within the National Gallery will expose our hidden art history and draw visitors toward their own investigation into works that inspire their imagination.



Please click here to access the password protected project overview.