Skip to main content

The National Gallery brings art outdoors with a pop-up of over 20 life-sized replicas of the Nation’s Favourite Paintings and free community art sessions in Trafalgar Square

Issued July 2021

Sketch on the Square: 3 – 31 August
Nation's Favourite Paintings: 10 August – 1 September

National Gallery, North Terrace (Trafalgar Square)

Image: The North Terrace of Trafalgar Square

From 10 August – 1 September, The National Gallery is bringing art into the open-air with an outdoor exhibition of over 20 life-sized replicas of some of the most famous and treasured paintings in the collection including Van Gogh’s 'Sunflowers' (1888), Turner’s 'The Fighting Temeraire' (1839) Botticelli’s 'Venus and Mars' (1485), and John Constable’s 'The Hay Wain' (1821).

This large scale installation in Trafalgar Square in the heart of London is being delivered in partnership with Westminster City Council and is the first activity to be announced as part of the Council’s Inside Out Festival – a celebration of art and culture produced to encourage visitors back into London’s West End. Further activities will be launched later in July as part of Cllr Rachael Robathan, Leader of Westminster City Council’s new borough wide initiative for Westminster.

The life-sized reproductions of popular masterpieces, around 1 to 2 metres wide, will be instantly visible to members of the public entering the square from any direction. Visitors will be able to walk among the works and experience them up close against the Gallery’s neo classical façade. The open-air gallery will showcase outstanding examples from major traditions of Western European painting, with the largest reproduction being Titian’s 'Bacchus and Ariadne' (1520-3). Replicas of works by Vermeer, Caravaggio, Gainsborough and Rembrandt will also be featured, among other popular masterpieces from one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world.

The pop-up exhibition will be accompanied by 'Sketch on the Square' (opening 3 August), a programme of free, daily alfresco art activities with a strong emphasis on mindfulness and wellbeing which has been created especially for the occasion. Supported with materials by UK arts supplier Cass Art, 30 easels will be installed on Trafalgar Square where artists and National Gallery staff will host creative painting and drawing sessions.

Each session is free and activities will run daily for the duration of the outdoor exhibition. Visitors are invited to book a free slot on the National Gallery’s website and join in, tickets will be available to book from late July. A number of sessions will be set aside for local community groups to ensure those living in the neighbourhood are able to participate. The creative responses of participants to Sketch on the Square sessions may be guided by the replica paintings, works in the Gallery’s collection and the architecture of the building, the surroundings of Trafalgar Square, interactions with others taking part, or anything else they choose – the possibilities are as boundless as one’s imagination. All the nation’s budding artists are encouraged to share their work on social media by tagging @nationalgallery. For the safety of visitors and staff, the outdoor exhibition and Sketch on the Square will be a socially distanced experience.

All visitors are invited to book a free Gallery entry ticket to see the paintings in their original home where they form part of a treasured collection of over 2,300 masterpieces. These paintings belong to the nation and entrance to see them is free. There can be little doubt that at times of crisis, art, culture and museums have had a very important role to play and we are delighted that the open-air gallery and alfresco creative sessions will encourage visitors to interact with the collection in a new way.

To complement the activities, there will be a digital component which visitors can engage with on site. Additional information on each replica painting can be accessed via the Smartify app which is free to download on any smartphone. If visitors wish to learn more, they can simply scan the QR codes next to the painting with their devices which will take them to the National Gallery website where they will be able to explore texts, films and features which delve into the stories behind the paintings.

The outdoor exhibition will be included in Art of London’s augmented reality art trail that was recently extended, now beginning just outside the Gallery then weaving through London’s West End. The trail offers new ways to digitally explore paintings from London’s leading cultural institutions. Visitors can download a free app ‘Art of London AR Gallery’ by searching for it on their app store; once opened, the app will reveal the immersive digital art trail marked by physical stickers which, when scanned, will unlock audio commentaries by artists and curators. Three new digital works are being added to the trail including collection work The Wilton Diptych (about 1395-9), made by an unknown British or French artist, for the private use of Richard II, King of England in the last five years of his life.

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, says:

‘We are delighted to be working with Westminster Council and the Inside Out festival, as it gives us the chance to showcase some of the Nation’s favourite paintings out in the open for everyone to enjoy. By bringing a series of life-size replicas onto the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, all visitors to the area can enjoy a taste of the treasures we have inside the National Gallery. For curious minds wanting to know more, the paintings can be scanned and a new world of discovery will be delivered to your phone - also we want to see which paintings are the Nation’s Favourites so we are encouraging people to let us know on their social channels by tagging @nationalgallery. And of course, everyone is welcome to book their free tickets into the Gallery - just a few steps away - to experience the real paintings.’

Cllr Rachael Robathan, Leader of Westminster City Council, says:

‘The Inside Out festival is a huge celebration of arts and culture on the streets of Westminster. We’re delighted to be working with the National Gallery and other partners to showcase the rich cultural heritage which our city has to offer. We have an exciting calendar of activity happening over the coming months that we hope will encourage visitors back into the West End as part of our vision for the safe and successful reopening of our city.’

The National Gallery Company will be operating an alfresco pop-up café on the terrace by the Fourth Plinth with a food and drinks offer. IIly will be sponsoring the Gallery’s pop-up catering offer this summer, both at the alfresco café and inside Espresso Bar. It will be the start of a year-long partnership which will also see Illy supporting the Gallery’s Contemporary Art Programme with the forthcoming Kehinde Wiley exhibition (10 December 2021–18 April 2022).

The National Gallery is grateful to Cass Art for supporting Sketch on the Square with the provision of art materials for public use. The Nation’s Favourites and Sketch on the Square are both generously supported by Let’s Do London.

Supported by

Notes to editors

The National Gallery is one of the greatest art galleries in the world. Founded by Parliament in 1824, the Gallery houses the nation’s collection of paintings in the Western European tradition from the late 13th to the early 20th century. The collection includes works by Bellini, Cézanne, Degas, Leonardo, Monet, Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens, Titian, Turner, Van Dyck, Van Gogh and Velázquez. The Gallery’s key objectives are to enhance the collection, care for the collection and provide the best possible access to visitors. Admission free. More at

Westminster City Council’s Inside Out festival will run from 2 August until 3 October, and is a way for visitors to the West End to rediscover the vibrant arts and culture scene through open air performances, outdoor exhibitions and installations in a bid to attract visitors back to the West End to enjoy London’s cultural and hospitality offerings safely.

Art of London is created by Heart of London Business Alliance in partnership with some of the UK’s leading cultural institutions and Sky Arts, Art of London is a major new consumer arts initiative, championing the cultural sector, celebrating art in every form and showcasing the vital role culture plays in society.
Visit for more information.

Founded by Mark Cass in 1984, with the first store opening at 13 Charing Cross Road WC2H 0EP next to the National Gallery, Cass Art is committed to encouraging everyone to realise their creative talents, by providing the world’s best art materials at the best prices.

illycaffè is an Italian family business, founded in Trieste in 1933 and committed to offering the greatest coffee to the world. It produces the unique illy 100% Arabica blend made of 9 of the world‘s best selections of Arabica, with a constant eye towards innovation. The bestowing of the first 'Ernesto Illy Award for quality espresso coffee' in 1991 in Brazil and the 'Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award' in 2017 symbolize its commitment to coffee growers, to whom illy pays a premium price for quality coffee. Since 2013 illycaffè – which has a presence in over 140 countries - has regularly featured on the list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. In 2019 it adopted benefit corporation status under Italian law, and in 2021 it became the first Italian coffee company to obtain B Corp international certification thanks to its commitment to abiding by the highest environmental and social performance standards. In 2020 the company employed 1291 people and posted consolidated revenues of €446.5 million. In 2021 Rhone Capital became a minority shareholder of illycaffè to assist the company with its international growth.

More information and book tickets for online events at

Instagram @nationalgallery
Facebook @thenationalgallery
Twitter @NationalGallery
YouTube @TheNationalGallery

Press enquiries

National Gallery Press Office on 020 7747 2865 or email

Publicity images can be obtained from