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Gaia, Luke Jerram, Painted Hall Greenwich
Photographer: Colin Mackenzie

A giant model of planet earth is rolling back into the Painted Hall

Created using Nasa imagery, it’s an exact scale replica of our planet

By
Alexandra Sims
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Glitzy illuminations don’t have to stop once Christmas is over. After brightening up the Old Royal Naval College’s Painted Hall over the summer for the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, Luke Jerram’s huge illuminated Earth sculpture will be returning to the Christopher Wren-designed building in January. 

The Painted Hall is already pretty impressive. Sometimes called ‘the Sistine Chapel of the UK’, it’s covered from floor to ceiling in exquisite works painted between 1707 and 1726 by British artist Sir James Thornhill, all filled with trompe l’oeil (trick the eye) techniques. And now, Jerram’s ‘Gaia’ will be adding even more perspective-bending art to the space. 

The seven-metre diameter, slowly rotating orb was created using Nasa imagery to make it an exact scale replica of our planet. At 1.8 million times smaller than Earth, the idea is to give viewers a sense of the ‘overview effect’ that astronauts experience when looking down at Earth from space. It means you can finally experience that overwhelming sensation of seeing our world as the ‘pale blue dot’ astronomer Carl Sagan made all that fuss about. 

Gaia, Luke Jerram, Painted Hall Greenwich
Photographer: Colin Mackenzie

After a year in which nature and the outdoors have provided us all with some comfort, it’s hoped the installation will help Londoners look at our precious planet from a new perspective. There’ll also be a surround-sound composition by Bafta award-winning composer Dan Jones to ramp up the atmosphere. 

If that’s not enough, the Painted Hall will be extending its opening hours every Friday while ‘Gaia’ is on show, so you can see it at its most impressive: lit up after dark. 

‘Gaia’ is due to go on display in the Painted Hall Jan 3-Feb 7 2021. If Tier 3 continues into January, the installation is likely to be extended into February. Tickets cost £12, book here.

Can’t wait until January? You can see these Christmas lights in London right now. 

More good 2021 news: Brightly coloured bumper cars are taking over Somerset House’s courtyard

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