Autumn is here and the new season brings with it a fresh programme of cultural activities and events across the capital. Most excitingly one of my favourites is back, Art After Dark returns on the 12th and 13th October, transforming the West End with a giant public art takeover alongside 30+ galleries, art institutions, and a selection of bars and eateries across Piccadilly and Leicester Square open late for art lovers and culture seekers alike.
From award-winning cultural initiative Art of London, Art After Dark will exclusively present a screening inspired by iconic performance artist Marina Abramović on the Piccadilly Lights at 7pm on Friday 13th October to coincide with her major autumn exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.
There will also be incredible free outdoor public installations including a new giant, inflatable sculpture titled ‘The Cornucopia’ by Claire Luxton, and an illuminated neon installation titled ‘The People You Love’ by Robert Montgomery in Leicester Square Gardens.
Taking place during Frieze, London’s busiest art week, hop between independent galleries such as the Stern Pissarro, Cristea Roberts, and Saatchi Yates, to soak up art and culture as the sun goes down on Thursday 12th October. The following evening, London’s most famous galleries will stay open until 9pm for a late-night cultural experience on Friday 13th October.
Last week I visited some of the highlights to add to your evening itinerary for Friday 13th October.
The National Portrait Gallery has recently reopened after a transformative renovation, with the impressive new entrance bringing in more visitors than ever before. It is really brilliant to see women at the heart of this revamp, with the National Portrait Gallery commenting that their three-year project ‘Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture’ aims to “enhance the representation of women in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection and highlight the often-overlooked stories of individual women who have shaped British history and culture. I was excited to wander round the permanent collection and see so many female artists exhibited and celebrated. One of the current exhibitions is ‘Yevonde: Life and Colour’ which tells the story of a woman who gained freedom through photography – as she experimented with her medium and blazed a new trail for portrait photographers. The exhibition features portraits and still-life works produced by Yevonde over a colourful sixty-year career, and draws on the archive of her work acquired by the Gallery in 2021, as well as extensive new research by the gallery’s team. Art After Dark is the final opportunity to visit ‘Yevonde: Life and Colour’ as the exhibition finishes on 15th October.
I also encourage you to check out the ‘Art of London Presents Take a Moment’ display downstairs, a striking collection of Ray Burmiston’s photographs depicting famous faces and members of the public, all with their eyes closed. The collection of pictures aims to raise awareness for mental health by allowing people to take a moment to be calm and collect their thoughts. The series has continued this year and my portrait (taken by Ray) will be on display on the Piccadilly Circus big screen on 10th October 2023 (World Mental Health Day).
All this culture is sure to work up an appetite, and The National Portrait Gallery now boasts the fabulous Larry’s Bar, a sophisticated spot for cocktails and food throughout the day and evening. Grab a table at one of the velvet-clad booths and order a ‘Larry’s’ cocktail accompanied by some tasty snacks, I loved the cheese and charcuterie boards.
With the National Gallery next door, I continued the theme of female artists by visiting the Paula Rego’s ‘Crivelli’s Garden’ exhibition which explores the relationship between Paula Rego’s monumental painting and the 15th-century altarpiece and National Gallery staff that inspired it. Thirty years ago, Dame Paula Rego, the National Gallery’s first Associate Artist, was commissioned to create a mural for the then new Sainsbury Wing Dining Room. The result, Rego’s ‘Crivelli’s Garden’ took its inspiration from an altarpiece by the 15th-century Italian artist Carlo Crivelli, ‘La Madonna della Rondine (The Madonna of the Swallow)’ painted after 1490 to tell the story of women from biblical history and folklore. It is a powerful and detailed painting that I really enjoyed seeing for the first time.
This exhibition is free to the public, and while you are here I also recommend wandering round the permanent collection.
Don’t miss this opportunity to admire London’s best art collections in the special Art After Dark series. And be sure to make an evening of it with food and drink at one of the area’s many brilliant eateries.
Paid Partnership with Art of London. More information here.