The Big City exhibition examines London on a mega scale

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The Big City exhibition examines London on a mega scale
credit David Hepher

Are you a big art fan, or a BIG art fan? Either way, you’ll want to get The Big City exhibition on your radar.

The most extensive collection of large-scale London paintings in the world will open at Guildhall Art Gallery from Friday 10 February.

The Big City 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.

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.”

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credit David Hepher

So, what can you expect?

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.

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