atie French, Senior Account Director at Premier – the UK’s leading entertainment, arts and culture communications agency – spoke to Heart of London Business Alliance’s Director of Destination Marketing, Mark Williams, about her new cultural initiative for the West End …
What is the Art of London Summer Season and why do you think it is an important initiative for the London art scene?
Art of London’s Art of London Summer Season initiative is a celebration of public art in some of the world’s most iconic locations. The exciting thing about it is that it sums up all of the fantastic activities in the various West End cultural institutions – art, theater, food & drink, film, comedy. We are coming out of the COVID pandemic and everyone wants to get in touch with people again. We create these moments of new things to do and new things to contemplate. It’s about getting people to work together to bring new visitors to the West End so that everyone can benefit.
What is your role at Art of London and can you explain a little more about the partners?
I’m the director of Art of London focused on moving the initiative forward. We have some great partners to work with who help us really move forward with all of the activities we offer. For example, Sky Arts came on board for our inaugural year – they were free to air when we launched Art of London as a concept.
We work closely with some of London’s best known art institutions, such as the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy.
This partnership has allowed us to unlock some fantastic content and talent while benefiting from Sky Arts getting its message across to consumers on the streets of London and developing its brand in that way. We also work very closely with some of London’s best known art institutions such as the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy. We have helped all of these institutions get their art onto the streets of London and make it more accessible.
We also work very closely with Westminster City Council – without their support we couldn’t do anything! You are very committed to advancing the Art of London. Finally, the Mayor of London recognized our work in attracting visitors back to central London. He and his team supported us as part of the wider Let’s do London campaign, an initiative aimed at bringing overnight visits back to central London.
/ Scott Garfitt / PinPep
How did the partners come into play and how do they contribute to the implementation of the Art of London vision?
The companies and institutions in and around London all have the same goal of bringing people together safely and providing their service to Londoners. Therefore, there is always a great opportunity to help develop these ideas within a common vision. We created Art of London as a framework for partnerships, and over the years and in the future we want the platform we have created to be used more and more by companies and institutions. Since we all have the same goal, there will always be room to unite these visions.
Can you explain the previous events and provide some background information?
We launched Art of London back in September 2020 and then promptly went back to another Covid ban, so we delayed our activities a little. As soon as this winter lock ended, we started our first consumer activity, the Augmented Gallery. It was an innovative partnership that used creative augmented reality technologies and brought art to the streets.
We created this art trail, which includes 27 panels across the West End, as a trail that people can scan with their phones and interact with art, both visually and through various audio commentary. Involved partners were Sky Arts, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy of Art. This was an exciting project that breaks down the barriers for people who may not think that art is for them.
The tusk path
Then in July we moved on to our next project – the Piccadilly Art Takeover. We have worked with the Royal Academy again and it has enabled them to showcase their art and take it to the streets for everyone to enjoy. We hired five of their artists to make the iconic Piccadilly area super colorful, vibrant, and a welcoming place to return to after the lockdown. With 30 flags hanging, 13 pedestrian crossings and a regular takeover of Piccadilly Lights, the Piccadilly area has turned into one of the largest art takeovers the UK has ever seen.
This month we started a partnership with the environmental organization Tusk Trust. The Tusk Trail sees 25 beautiful lion sculptures placed throughout the West End and painted by famous artists, comedians, actors, charities, and musicians including Ronnie Wood.
“A gallery without walls” is a slogan for the Art of London Summer Season – how does that promote your initiative?
“A gallery without walls” is a principle from the cultural strategy we have developed. Encouraging companies to get the most out of the West End is a creative and intellectual idea. Through Art of London we enable institutions and companies to take to the streets and really celebrate what is normally inside their buildings, behind closed doors, behind ticket counters. Here, too, barriers between the spectators are broken to animate and beautify the streets of London.
The Piccadilly Art Acquisition
A common theme here is to make London’s art more accessible to visitors. Is there a specific goal you would like to achieve with the Art of London season?
We want to bring art to a wide audience and get different audiences interested in the organizations and companies in the West End as part of our mission to bring visitors back to central London after Covid-19. Many people may feel that art is not for them or they may not understand it and are too nervous to go to a particular institution due to certain stereotypes. It’s about breaking down those barriers, getting people interested and turning them into new customers who can enjoy the benefits of the West End.
How has the initiative affected the region so far?
We have had a successful start at Art of London so far. The response from various local West End actors has been fantastic. It really got everyone excited and gave people a chance to increase their anticipation of the reopening of the city center. We have had some fantastic press coverage achievements that have broadened the West End’s profile as a thriving cultural hub. With the lockdown restrictions eased, we’ve seen more visitors to the area and a fantastic commitment to initiatives like the Augmented Gallery as people interact with the app and the artwork on display.
Is there an annual season planned – what are Art of London’s plans for the future?
One of my downsides is that I can’t stop so we always move on to the next thing so yeah Art of London is definitely here to stay. It’s an ongoing project and we will continue to have a peak activity summer season, but we won’t go anywhere in between. We’re going to look at all of the art forms, many different disciplines, celebrate these forms and really get into the details of art, theater, cinema, visual arts and poetry. Everything is ready to explore and expand the West End. We will definitely be back next summer but there will be lots of activities in the meantime.
The Art of London Season, curated by Heart of London Business Alliance, runs until September 2021. For more information, visit artoflondon.co.uk