Guildhall Art Gallery unveils the world’s most extensive collection of supersize paintings of London
The Big City celebrates artists who paint London on a huge scale, creating immersive works that dominate interior spaces
Unique exhibition showcases some of the largest paintings in the Gallery’s collection and includes many rarely-seen works by Frank O. Salisbury, Terence Cuneo, and David Hepher
The most extensive collection of large-scale London paintings in the world will open at the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery from Friday 10 February.
The Big City: London painted on a grand scale celebrates the exceptional talent of 19 artists and showcases some of the largest paintings in the Gallery’s collection, including works that are not normally on public display.
At the heart of The Big City exhibition will be a series of pieces by David Hepher, on display in London for the first time. The works were gifted to the City Corporation by the artist in 2022 and is the largest donation in the Gallery’s recent history.
Hepher’s career spans over six decades and for the last 40 years, his practice has focused almost exclusively on London, in particular, the inner-city estates of the 1960s and 1970s.
Hepher’s urban landscapes explore the scale and austere grandeur of post-war social planning and urban regeneration. Painted on a monumental scale and across multiple panels, his works can take up to one year to complete. His paintings are large-scale and ambitious, conveying his technical skill and trademark style: painstakingly detailed and true-to-life paintings of concrete tower blocks, incorporating visual signs of urban decay.
Graffiti tags, based on Hepher’s own observations, adorn the paintings in various colours, while the canvases themselves are primed with a mixture of concrete, PVA, and wood to create the illusion of tower-block walls, onto which Hepher has applied paint to mimic the small streams of slime that often stain concrete structures.
The exhibition also includes a four-piece panel installation by John Bartlett - one of the largest items in the show - and gigantic works of art from Frank O. Salisbury and Terence Cuneo that have never been displayed side-by-side.
Guildhall Art Gallery is home to one of the world’s most extensive collections of London paintings and one of the largest oil paintings on display in the UK - John Singleton Copley’s, Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar (1783– 1791), measuring 7.5 x 5.4 metres).
Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage, and Libraries Committee, Wendy Hyde, said:
“It is usually very challenging for art galleries to showcase so many paintings of this size at the same time and in one area, so ‘The Big City’ will provide a unique, not to say, positively overwhelming, experience for visitors.
“Given the scale of some of these huge masterpieces, some may even feel that they are in the painting, rather than viewing it.
“I am looking forward to hearing encouraging feedback from the team behind the exhibition.”
The Big City will open on Friday 10 February on a ‘pay what you can’ basis. Curator-led and guided tours will also be available to book daily during the exhibition.
The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Guildhall Art Gallery, is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £130m every year.
Notes to Editors:
The Big City: London painted on a grand scale runs from Friday 10 February until Sunday 23 April 2023 at Guildhall Art Gallery. For tickets to the event, or to book a curator-led or guided tour, please visit cityoflondon.gov.uk/thebigcity
For a full list of pieces, images of select artworks, interviews or to attend a press view of the exhibition on Wednesday 8 February, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Head of Gallery and Amphitheatre, Guildhall Art Gallery, Elizabeth Scott, is available for interviews.
About the City of London Corporation
The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Guildhall Art Gallery, is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk
About Guildhall Art Gallery
The historic Guildhall Art Gallery originally opened in 1886 and is home to City of London’s magnificent art collection. Particularly rich in Victorian art and ranging from Pre-Raphaelites to depictions London’s colourful past, the Gallery’s basement houses the remains of London’s Roman Amphitheatre, dating from AD70. The Gallery also owns one of the largest oil paintings in Britain, John Singleton Copley’s Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar (1783 – 1791), which is on permanent display.
The Big City: London painted on a grand scale exhibition dates: 10 February - 23 April 2023
Guildhall Art Gallery
Admission: ‘Pay what you can’
Guildhall Art Gallery opening hours:
Monday to Sunday 10:30am – 4:00pm (last admission: 3.45pm)