This summer, Londoners don’t have to venture into an art gallery to see the latest exciting creative project. Art of London, a new cultural initiative for the West End, and the Royal Academy of Arts have called on five artists to take over the Piccadilly area to create one one of the biggest public art takeovers the city has ever seen. Here, find out more about the month-long event which sees Michael Armitage, Yinka Shonibare, Vanessa Jackson, Farshid Moussavi and Issac Julien turn London into their canvas.
This summer, those returning to the West End after months of lockdown-enforced closures are in for a surprise. London’s busiest area is getting a creative upgrade as five renowned artists transform the city’s central hub for the Piccadilly Art Takeover. From 21 July – 31 August 2021, the area will be turned into an outdoor art show with 30 overhanging flags, 13 designed pedestrian crossings — the largest ever number of art crossings to take place in one area — and a rotating takeover of the renowned Piccadilly Lights.
The five artists, all of which are associated with the Royal Academy, include Michael Armitage, Vanessa Jackson RA, Isaac Julien CBE RA, Farshid Moussavi OBE RA and Yinka Shonibare CBE RA. Each artist was assigned a specific area of Piccadilly on which to make their mark, either by repurposing an existing artwork or creating something entirely new. The result is a colourful explosion of shapes, movement and more.
British painter Vanessa Jackson has transformed the 13 pedestrian crossings with her distinctive abstract collages that are meant to evoke the movement and joy of dance. Meanwhile filmmaker and installation artist Isaac Julien CBE has taken over the globally famous Piccadilly screens with Lessons of the Hour, a meditation on the life and times of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, played by British actor Ray Fearon. Michael Armitage, Farshid Moussavi and Yinka Shonibare were called on to design the art for 30 flags hanging across Piccadilly. The designs represent the distinctive styles, mediums and influences of the three artists, yet displayed together, passersby will also notice the harmony of the flags, as if they were a collaboration rather than an independent commission.
On top of the physical artworks on the crosswalks and hanging overhead, visitors can also experience a digital side to the project. As artists are invited to execute a weekly takeover of the 780 sqm Piccadilly Lights, audiences can take the display to the next level with a special augmented reality experience that includes synced audio via their mobile phones, marking the first time technology has been used as part of the iconic light display.
This is only the start of the city’s art takeover this summer. The Art of London Summer Season spans three months of exciting celebrations of art in all its forms across London’s West End, including pop-up exhibitions in vacant retail spaces showcasing the works of up-and-coming London-based artists, and the launch of the Augmented Gallery, bringing incredible artworks from London’s leading institutions to one space via an accessible augmented reality app.