Heart of London Business Alliance’s award-winning cultural initiative Art of London has today announced Art After Dark in partnership with Mayfair Art Weekend, a free and seasonal art programme uniting world-class institutions across the West End to keep gallery doors open late.

Exclusively for Art After Dark, members of the public will be able to experience headline exhibitions at major galleries as part of their night out in the West End. Scheduled three times across the year with the first installment on Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th March 2023, galleries will remain open until 9pm for hops between exhibitions.

In a first for the capital, Art of London has united galleries with independent art houses to host this prestigious programme. Thursday night will feature London’s most acclaimed independent galleries shaking up the art scene, including Cristea Roberts, 3812 Gallery and Stern Pissarro, while on Friday members of the public can absorb the culture at the Royal Academy of Arts and the National Gallery. The National Portrait Gallery will feature in the second installment of the initiative when it reopens this summer.

In partnership with Westminster City Council to launch the initiative, Art of London is set to unveil three illuminated immersive art installations in Piccadilly Circus, St James’s Market and St James’s Churchyard to signpost the galleries participating in the new culture programme, supported by The Crown Estate. Absorbed By Light, designed by Gail May Lucas and sculpted by Karoline Hinz, highlights our infatuation with technology; Crossroads, designed by Lucid Creates, is a spectacular light installation; additionally, from Lucid Creates comes Exponential, a levitating kaleidoscopic mirrored cube creating optical illusions.

Whether it’s spending the evening soaking up art or dropping into an exhibition around dinner or drinks, culture-seekers will discover unmissable exhibits on their night out, from Soho to St. James. In the programme’s first edition, the National Gallery presents exhibitions including Nalini Malani: My Reality is Different, while the Royal Academy of Arts will show Image of the Artist in its Collection Gallery, a brand new display around the theme of self-portraits which will celebrate the 300th anniversary of its founding President, Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Mark Williams, Director of Art of London, said: “Art of London is thrilled to unite the West End’s leading institutions and galleries for this late-night culture programme on a scale never done before. Art After Dark opens up the art world to a new generation of night owls, who can now experience incredible exhibitions alongside their visits to the West End’s best restaurants and bars.”

Ros Lawler, Chief Operating Officer at the National Portrait Gallery, said: “The National Portrait Gallery will be welcoming visitors back through its new doors on 22 June, and in our reopening year, we’re delighted to be working with the Art of London team to give visitors even more access to our exhibitions, Collections, shop and restaurants, out of hours.”

Jane Knowles, Interim Director of Public Engagement at The National Gallery, said: “We are delighted that our Friday late openings are going to be a part of Art After Dark when public and private galleries in London will be keeping their doors open late. This is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the Gallery’s free permanent collection and our new free exhibition Nalini Malani: My Reality is Different, a spectacular 40-metre high animation chamber. This panorama of nine large video projections, played in a continuous loop, is an exciting new work especially created for the Gallery and drawing inspiration from some of its most famous pictures.”

Jo Prosser, Director of Audience & Engagement at the Royal Academy of Arts, said: “The RA reflects a tradition of hospitality and conviviality that’s run for over 250 years; we’re delighted to be able to welcome people to our exhibitions in new and different ways, and at times of day to suit them. Art After Dark makes for a great experience at the end of a working day or as a start to an evening out… we’re happy to be part of it’.

Simon Fitzpatrick for Mayfair Art Weekend, said: “This is an amazing opportunity to build upon the Gallery Hops that we have been doing for a few years now. It is about time that London had an arts event like this. We’re excited to be a part of Art After Dark and unlock late-night access to the West End’s art galleries. There’s an incredible range of world-class art within London’s independent galleries and we encourage as many people as possible to seek it out”.

While working up an appetite on the gallery hops, diners can book a table at top West End restaurants, including the Farzi Cafe or Koha Restaurant and Bar. Members of the public longing for a delicious cocktail need look no further than the underground cocktail den Blame Gloria and Lio London – formerly Cafe de Paris, for signature drinks shaken by London’s best mixologists.

On Fridays, the Royal Academy serves complimentary pintxos by acclaimed chef José Pizarro at the Poster Bar with every drink purchased between 5.30-8.30 pm, while on Thursdays and Fridays, The Shenkman Bar in The Keeper’s House is open until 9 pm offering monthly food and drink pairings, making it the perfect destination for post-exhibition refreshment.

Art After Dark is the next initiative to form part of Art of London’s other phenomenal art attractions and programmes, delivered by Heart of London Business Alliance and supported by Mayfair Art Weekend, Westminster City Council and Pinterest. Formed by Heart of London Business Alliance in 2021, Art of London showcases art in every form and looks to highlight the plethora of art and cultural activities available in the West End. Previous campaigns include Augmented Gallery, the Piccadilly Art Takeover and Trail, the Take A Moment 2022 photography exhibition and Brighter Future public art commission.

Culture seekers can also discover a raft of spectacular arts destinations to visit using Art of London’s handy online guides, filled with world-class art galleries, theatres, museums, institutions and pop-ups to explore in the West End.