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The National Gallery is filling London’s billboards with art by Van Gogh and Vigée Le Brun

The gallery is taking over outdoor advertising screens with famous artworks from its collection

Written by
Katie McCabe

Have you ever gone to a gallery to gaze at a famous painting, and only managed to see a sliver of the canvas through the crowd? That’s usually the case when going to see Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ or Monet’s ‘The Water-Lily Pond’ at the National Gallery. Right now, with the NG in lockdown, we don’t even have that chance to catch a fleeting glimpse of these works.

To try and bring a tiny slice of its permanent collection to the public, the gallery has now partnered with an advertising company to take a select group of its paintings and place them on giant outdoor screens around the country. For now, Ocean Outdoor is allowing the NG to use its digital sites for free, so that passers-by can still have a chance to see the paintings while the gallery remains closed. 

Works getting the superprize treatment are  Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ and ‘A Wheatfield, with Cypresses’, Monet’s ‘The Water-Lily Pond’, van Eyck’s ‘The Arnolfini Portrait’, Seurat’s ‘Bathers at Asnières’, Vigée Le Brun’s ‘Self Portrait in a Straw Hat’ and Rousseau’s ‘Surprised!’. 

The screens will be placed in London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Southampton. From today in London, the paintings will be visible on screens in Hammersmith Broadway, Holland Park Roundabout, Shepherd’s Bush (pictured), Westfield Totem in Stratford and High Street Kensington. The locations of the paintings will change day to day, depending on the availability of the screens. 

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, director of the National Gallery, says: ‘Our role now, more importantly than ever, is to provide access to some of the world's greatest art to give people inspiration and solace in these difficult times.’ 

Seeing these paintings lit up like an ad for Cherry Coke might not be the ideal art experience, but until we can return to see Vigée Le Brun’s ‘Self Portrait in a Straw Hat’ in person, it’ll have to do. 

Want to search NG’s collection for yourself? You can do that here. 

Take a virtual tour of museums and galleries across London through your own screen.

VOMA, the first purpose-build digital museum, is due to open in June. Find out more here


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