Tiger seen on Shaftesbury Avenue
by Samuel Jones
For those who haven't yet encountered the tiger, or Quinten Massys' Grotesque Old Woman, who lurks on the corner of Foubert's Place, the Grand Tour is a scheme in which reproductions of some of the National's collection are framed, hung and labelled around the streets of London. Passers-by can read what they would in the Gallery itself, and call a number to hear about the artist and the painter.
Obviously, it's no replacement for trotting five minutes down the road to see the real thing, but I think it's great. It will attract people's attention and there's a good chance that it will encourage people to visit. Even if, they don't, then at least Massys gets an airing.
It would be really intersting in the long run to see the images going to other cities and perhaps reflecting their surroundings offering new reflections on both place and painting. Joseph Wright of Derby's Air Pump, for instance, has messages about the relationship between progress and the natural world as much as it does about family relations - plenty to think about while sitting at an airport.
It's not a case of using paintings to get contemporary messages across, though. Rather, it's a great opportunity to get people thinking anew about about how paintings and other cultural products can have plentiful and varied meaning today and also to get thinking about the idea that different readings can be very powerful things. It's also a means of voicing our own ideas about place. Certainly, there's an opportunity for us to learn more about the pasts of paintings shown and hear more about their creators and their contexts but, if people in Anytown think that a reproduction of the Rokeby Venus would actually fit pretty well in their shopping mall, then why not?