The National Gallery opens pop up exhibition of over 20 full-sized replicas of famous masterpieces

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The National Gallery opens pop up exhibition of over 20 full-sized replicas of famous masterpieces
Installation view: National Gallery pop up exhibition in Trafalgar Square, Inside Out Festival. © The National Gallery, London.

LONDON.- The National Gallery’s outdoor exhibition in Trafalgar Square, showcasing over 20 full-sized replicas of some of the most famous and treasured paintings in the collection, opened today (10 August). The pop-up gallery selection features masterpieces including Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888), Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire (1839) Botticelli’s Venus and Mars (1485), and John Constable’s The Hay Wain (1821).

This large scale installation in Trafalgar Square in the heart of London is being delivered in partnership with Westminster City Council and is the first activity to be announced as part of the Council’s Inside Out Festival – a celebration of art and culture produced to encourage visitors back into London’s West End. Further activities will be launched as part of Cllr Rachael Robathan, Leader of Westminster City Council’s new borough wide initiative for Westminster.

The life-sized reproductions of popular masterpieces, around 1 to 2 metres wide, will be instantly visible to members of the public entering the square from any direction. Visitors will be able to walk among the works and experience them up close against the Gallery’s neo classical façade. The open-air gallery will showcase outstanding examples from major traditions of Western European painting, with the largest reproduction being Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne(1520-3). Replicas of works by Vermeer, Caravaggio, Gainsborough and Rembrandt will also be featured, among other popular masterpieces from one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world.

The pop-up exhibition will be accompanied by Sketch on the Square, a programme of free, daily alfresco art activities with a strong emphasis on mindfulness and wellbeing which has been created especially for the occasion. Supported with materials by UK arts supplier Cass Art, thirty easels will be installed on Trafalgar Square where artists and National Gallery staff will host creative painting and drawing sessions. Full details are avaliable on the National Gallery website:

Each session is free and activities will run daily for the duration of the outdoor exhibition. Visitors are invited to book a free slot on the National Gallery’s websiteand join in. A number of sessions will be set aside for local community groups to ensure those living in the neighbourhood are able to participate. The creative responses of participants to Sketch on the Square sessions may be guided by the replica paintings, works in the Gallery’s collection and the architecture of the building, the surroundings of Trafalgar Square, interactions with others taking part, or anything else they choose – the possibilities are as boundless as one’s imagination. All the nation’s budding artists are encouraged to share their work on social media by tagging @nationalgallery. For the safety of visitors and staff, the outdoor exhibition and Sketch on the Square will be a socially distanced experience.

All visitors are invited to book a free Gallery entry ticket to see the paintings in their original home where they form part of a treasured collection of over 2,300 masterpieces. These paintings belong to the nation and entrance to see them is free. There can be little doubt that at times of crisis, art, culture and museums have had a very important role to play and we are delighted that the open-air gallery and alfresco creative sessions will encourage visitors to interact with the collection in a new way.

To complement the activities, there will be a digital component which visitors can engage with on site.

Additional information on each replica painting can be accessed via the Smartify app which is free to download on any smartphone. If visitors wish to learn more, they can simply scan the QR codes next to the painting with their devices which will take them to the National Gallery website where they will be able to explore texts, films and features which delve into the stories behind the paintings.

The outdoor exhibition will be included in Art of London’s augmented reality art trail that was recently extended, now beginning just outside the Gallery then weaving through London’s West End. The trail offers new ways to digitally explore paintings from London’s leading cultural institutions. Visitors can download a free app ‘Art of London AR Gallery’ by searching for it on their app store; once opened, the app will reveal the immersive digital art trail marked by physical stickers which, when scanned, will unlock audio commentaries by artists and curators. Three new digital works are being added to the trail including collection work The Wilton Diptych (about 1395-9), made by an unknown British or French artist, for the private use of Richard II, King of England in the last five years of his life.

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, says: ‘We are delighted to be working with Westminster Council and the Inside Out festival, as it gives us the chance to showcase some of the Nation’s favourite paintings out in the open for everyone to enjoy. By bringing a series of life-size replicas onto the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, all visitors to the area can enjoy a taste of the treasures we have inside the National Gallery. For curious minds wanting to know more, the paintings can be scanned and a new world of discovery will be delivered to your phone - also we want to see which paintings are the Nation’s Favourites so we are encouraging people to let us know on their social channels by tagging @nationalgallery. And of course, everyone is welcome to book their free tickets into the Gallery - just a few steps away - to experience the real paintings.’

Cllr Rachael Robathan, Leader of Westminster City Council, says: ‘The Inside Out festival is a huge celebration of arts and culture on the streets of Westminster. We’re delighted to be working with the National Gallery and other partners to showcase the rich cultural heritage which our city has to offer. We have an exciting calendar of activity happening over the coming months that we hope will encourage visitors back into the West End as part of our vision for the safe and successful reopening of our city.’

The National Gallery Company will be operating an alfresco pop-up cafe on the terrace by the Fourth Plinth with a food and drinks offer. IIly will be sponsoring the Gallery’s pop-up catering offer this summer, both at the alfresco café and inside Espresso Bar. It will be the start of a year-long partnership which will also see Illy supporting the Gallery’s Contemporary Art Programme with the forthcoming Kehinde Wiley exhibition (10 December 2021–18 April 2022).

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