Actor and presenter Stephen Mangan today unveiled the art gallery of the future, as some of the West End’s leading institutions unite to display their masterpieces outdoors through the lens of augmented reality.

The Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year presenter officially opened The Augmented Gallery, an interactive art trail, using the latest in augmented reality technology, which marks the launch of ‘Art of London’, a new cultural strategy for the West End and start of a season of public art for the area.

Appearing outside the National Gallery, the first of twenty locations in the free and accessible public trail, Mangan revealed a life-sized augmented reality version of Anthony van Dyck’s ‘Equestrian Portrait of Charles I’, one of twenty masterpieces the public will be able to experience across a mile-long outdoor trail.

The Art of London Augmented Gallery is a unique collaboration between the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts and Sky Arts. Each has contributed a diverse selection of classic and contemporary masterpieces to this innovative and safe way to enjoy some of the world’s greatest art in the open air, as the country and cultural institutions tentatively prepare to reopen.

Beginning at the National Gallery and ending at Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly – taking in St. Martin’s Lane, Orange Street, Cecil Court, Piccadilly Circus, Princes Arcade and Jermyn Street along the way – The Augmented Gallery consists of twenty life-sized colourful frames and plaques on walls around the area, each of which will contain QR codes and unique markers to unlock timeless masterpieces framed in 3D.

Classic paintings and modern works featured from the gallery collections will include Titian, Vincent van Gogh, Alexandria Artemisia Gentileschi, Georges Pierre Seurat, Ishbel Myerscough, Shirin Neshat and Tracey Emin and portraits of iconic sitters from William Shakespeare to Malala Yousafzai.

The trail also features contemporary portraits of famous faces including Sir Tom Jones, Sir Ian McKellen, Elaine Paige, Nile Rodgers and Imelda Staunton, all by finalists and winners of Portrait Artist of the Year, which is free to air on Sky Arts and will return later this year.

All contained in a central Art of London Augmented Gallery app, the trail features insightful and entertaining audio commentaries on each classic painting, which includes curators from each of the galleries, along with a lighter touch from comedian and art lover James Acaster and Stephen Mangan himself.

Stephen Mangan, who has presented Portrait Artist of the Year since 2019, said: “I’m delighted to be part of the Augmented Gallery and to unveil this life-sized augmented masterpiece by Anthony van Dyck at the National Gallery.

“Presenting Portrait Artist of the Year has introduced me to so many incredibly talented contemporary artists and to see the likes of 2020 winner Christabel Blackburn and 2019 winner Duncan Shoosmith displayed in this app alongside greats like Van Gogh and Titian is a genuinely proud moment. This is such a great initiative that people can enjoy safely outdoors in the heart of London’s West End and I hope it introduces these timeless classics and contemporary masterpieces to new audiences.”