Treasured City

Vivienne Baker was commissioned to create five paintings for Treasured City, an intriguing public treasure hunt across Scunthorpe with the chance to find and keep solid gold artefacts worth at least £2,500 each. Clues to the whereabouts of the five historic replicas cast in 18 carat gold were woven into the intricate paintings.

Treasured City was the brainchild of internationally-renowned artist Luke Jerram. The five golden objects were hidden in secret locations across Scunthorpe and the region. The exhibition showing the paintings was at 20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe from 18 February to 29 April 2017.

Luke Jerram is a conceptual artist who often works collaboratively with other artists and craftspeople with specialist skills, to implement his ideas. The commission involved making a series of large scale paintings that depict specific surfaces, suggesting industrial links to Scunthorpe.

“He knew that I could create them because in the past my work has been quite abstract using untraditional painting techniques such as textured rollers and sponges. I took a similar approach to the ‘Treasured City’ paintings. Each of the clues is painted in gold representing the treasure; this also makes them stand out from the backgrounds which are painted to look like flat surfaces of stone or metal. The paintings are large, 1.50m x 1.50m, and have a striking presence.”

“The paintings took 3 months to create and involved multi-layering of acrylic paint in different ways to create the different backgrounds. Two suggest stone surfaces: slate and marble, and the paint layers are thin glazes and printed marks. The others suggest solid metallic surfaces which appear to have layers of weathered paint scraped back to the surface. Finally, the clues: gold icons and characters were sprayed on using specially created stencils, the gold linking to the hidden treasures which are replicas of five small objects from Scunthorpe Museum cast in solid gold.”

“The project is primarily Luke Jerram’s work but I have used my own vision and skills in the creation of the paintings, particularly with the colour selections such as the red and green backgrounds because Luke is colour-blind.”

Luke worked in collaboration with Vivienne Baker and a puzzle maker, who also is employed by an unnamed Government agency, to help him design the clues in the coding for the paintings. For more on the gold treasures themselves, see Luke Jerram’s website.

The exhibition was featured on BBC Inside Out on 13 February 2017.

Commissioned by 20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Treasured City was supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council of England, with kind support from North Lincolnshire Museum. People can follow the progress of Treasured City at or via twitter @lukejerram and @2021VisualArts and by searching the hashtag #treasuredcity.