ast week, Actor and presenter Stephen Mangan unveiled an innovative new art gallery of the future. A collective of the West End’s leading institutions teamed up to display their masterpieces outdoors by utilising augmented reality technology

Mangan, who is the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year presenter, officially opened The Augmented Gallery which features an interactive art trail, using the latest in augmented reality technology, which marks the launch of ‘Art of London’, a new cultural strategy for the West End and start of a season of public art for the area.

The first stop of the art trail begins outside the National Gallery, Mangan revealed a life-sized augmented reality version of Anthony van Dyck’s ‘Equestrian Portrait of Charles I’, just one of twenty masterpieces available to experience across a mile-long outdoor trail.

The group that has brought the Art of London Augmented Gallery to life is a unique collaboration between Sky Arts, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts. Each institution has contributed a diverse selection of classic and contemporary masterpieces to this innovative and safe way to enjoy some of the world’s greatest art in the open air, as the country and cultural institutions tentatively prepare to reopen.

The augmented reality arts trail begins at the National Gallery and ending at Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly, taking in St. Martin’s Lane, Orange Street, Cecil Court, Piccadilly Circus, Princes Arcade and Jermyn Street along the way. The Augmented Gallery consists of twenty life-sized colourful frames and plaques on walls around the area, each of which will contain QR codes and unique markers to unlock timeless masterpieces framed in 3D.

The trail features a mixture of both classic and contemporary works, including pieces from Titian, Vincent van Gogh, Alexandria Artemisia Gentileschi, Georges Pierre Seurat, Ishbel Myerscough, Shirin Neshat and Tracey Emin and portraits of iconic sitters from William Shakespeare to Malala Yousafzai.

Featured along the trail is contemporary portraits of celebrities including Sir Tom Jones, Sir Ian McKellen, Elaine Paige, Nile Rodgers and Imelda Staunton, all by finalists and winners of Portrait Artist of the Year, which is free to air on Sky Arts and will return later this year.

The augmented reality trail is available through the Art of London Augmented Gallery app, which comes with insightful and entertaining audio commentaries on each classic painting, which includes curators from each of the galleries, along with a lighter touch from comedian and art lover James Acaster and Stephen Mangan himself.

Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year presenter Stephen Mangan stated: 

“I’m delighted to be part of the Augmented Gallery and to unveil this life-sized augmented masterpiece by Anthony van Dyck at the National Gallery.

Mangan continued:

“Presenting Portrait Artist of the Year has introduced me to so many incredibly talented contemporary artists and to see the likes of 2020 winner Christabel Blackburn and 2019 winner Duncan Shoosmith displayed in this app alongside  greats like Van Gogh and Titian is a genuinely proud moment. This is such a great initiative that people can enjoy safely outdoors in the heart of London’s West End and I hope it introduces these timeless classics and contemporary masterpieces to new audiences.”
May 10, 2021
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