• Ina

Royal Academy artists turn Piccadilly into a vibrant exhibition space

Updated: Aug 4, 2021

Did you know there’s a free public outdoor exhibition across Piccadilly this summer? The Royal Academy of Arts has teamed up with Art of London to spark Londoners’ imagination by transforming the area surrounding Picadilly Circus into a huge pop-up exhibition space.


Passers-by are invited to discover 13 zebra crossings, 30 colourful floating canvases, and even a 780-metre film, all created by some of the UK’s most original and inspiring artists working today, exclusively picked by the Royal Academy: Farshid Moussavi, Michael Armitage, Vanessa Jackson, Isaac Julien, and Yinka Shonibare. Their mission was to create "bespoke, vibrant, and original art" and to see the city centre as their canvas. The results are incredible!

Vanessa Jackson's beautifully painted pedestrian crossing
Vanessa Jackson's beautifully painted pedestrian crossing

The ambitious project is called Piccadilly Art Takeover and all artworks are on view until 31 August 2021 in the area around Piccadilly that has now become a temporary “gallery without walls” and the largest art crossing "canvas” that was ever exhibited in a single location in the UK.


One of the leading participating artists is painter Vanessa Jackson. With her “UpTown Dancing” series she transformed 13 pedestrian crossings into explosions of vibrant abstract designs as she is looking forward to “people not just walking across my pavements – like Abbey Road – but actually, I hope they’ll be dancing.” (info source: Forbes article).


Her intention is to awake feelings of movement and joy through an electric interaction of forms and colours that makes people wish to dance their way to the other side of the road.

Striking overhanging banners designed byFarshid Moussavi, Yinka Shonibare, and Michael Armitage,  in London's West End
Striking banners designed by Farshid Moussavi, Michael Armitage, and Yinka Shonibare over London's West End.

As for the flags, Michael Armitage, Farshid Moussavi, and Yinka Shonibare have brought their distinctive creative styles together, turning the iconic area of Piccadilly into a welcoming and harmonious environment. Some of their flag designs celebrate the local key workers, others are inspired by the well-known Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus (only that Eros is shooting roses instead of arrows).


All pieces evoke feelings of love for the city and speak directly to locals as well as to people who long to visit London this summer. The takeover injects life back into the abandoned city centre, and hopes to let tourists know that London is open and ready to embrace them and welcome them back.


So the next time you go for a stroll on Piccadilly, don't forget to look everywhere around you and even snap a few bright-colored pics for your Insta feed.

Vanessa Jackson's “UpTown Dancing” features 13 colourful crosswalks
Vanessa Jackson's “UpTown Dancing” features 13 colourful crosswalks

📍 Visit Piccadilly Art Takeover at Piccadilly, London.

📆 Until 31 August 2021.

🚇 The closest London Underground stations are Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, and Piccadilly Circus (all on the Piccadilly line).


*All photos were taken by Ina/WithinLondon, unless stated otherwise.

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