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Darabase Contributes to Ongoing Art of London AR Art Project With Artist Isaac Julien

The AR art installation of Julien’s Lessons of the Hour takes over Piccadilly Lights.


London has some of the greatest art in the world and a lot of it is indoors. Historically, this hasn’t been a huge obstacle to visitors. However, many of these museums closed during the coronavirus pandemic. The Heart of London Business Alliance (HOLBA) set out to use AR art pieces to let viewers view art outdoors.

In addition to being a great way to get around COVID closings, AR art is hugely accessible and makes the outdoors itself part of the context of various pieces. Between easing concerns regarding virus variants and tremendous public support, the initiative is continuing and growing, now with new partner Darabase – no stranger to Piccadilly Circus.

The AR Art of London

The first HOLBA-sponsored AR art was called the “Augmented Gallery.” It turned heads earlier this year before closing in July.

“Audiences have become more accustomed than ever to accessing cultural content in a way that’s on-demand and in context,” Rob Morgan, Playlines Creative Director told ARPost in May. “AR allows for a close-up encounter with great works of art out on the street but, more importantly, it allows for the street itself to become a canvas.”

The Augmented Gallery may be closed, but it was one AR art series in a larger initiative called “Art of London” headed up by The Heart of London Business Alliance. This organization isn’t an exclusively XR organization but rather a group of businesses and institutions promoting area commerce through creative media campaigns. And, these days, “creative media” means AR.

Building Out the Team

For another AR art installation, HOLBA worked with “creative media” company Darabase – an old ARPost favorite. Also contributing are Landsec, The Royal Academy of Arts, and artist Isaac Julien.

“As London’s West End really opens back up for business, we saw a unique opportunity to work with Darabase as part of the Art of London initiative,” Art of London Director Mark Williams said in a release. “AR is an innovative and effective tool to attract and engage visitors and we are thrilled with the experiences that have been developed through our partnership.”

Landsec is the largest commercial property development company in the UK and owns many iconic London landmarks including Piccadilly Lights (kind of like the British version of Times Square). They’ve worked with Darabase in the past and the partnership has worked out.

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The Royal Academy of Arts is a major site for both the creation and exhibition of art, also located in London. In addition to being a member of the Royal Academy, Julien holds the title of “Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.”

The “Lessons of the Hour” AR Experience

The AR art experience, “Lessons of the Hour” facilitated by this partnership actually celebrates an American historical figure, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass. While he spent most of his life in the United States, he spent two years in the UK and was living there when he attained his legal freedom from slavery.

Art of London AR installation Darabase Isaac Julien

“It has been a true honor to work with Isaac Julien, his studio, the Royal Academy of Arts and the Heart of London Business Alliance to leverage Darabase’s platform to create such a special and transformative AR experience,” said Darabase CEO Dominic Collins. “I’m sure that it will surprise and delight thousands of visitors to Piccadilly Circus in the weeks to come.”

Part of the experience lives in lights on location and utilizes “Audio Sync Technology ” from Darabase which uses computer vision to match the audio from a user’s mobile device to the images on the screen. Part of the experience, shared through a QR code, allows the user to enter an immersive gallery for a more intimate experience of Julien’s work.

AR art installation Darabase Isaac Julien

The AR experience has been absolutely fantastic,” Julien said in the release. “The artistry which went into the formation of the AR is really meticulous and incredibly well done. Everyone I have shown it to has literally said ‘Wow!’. Working with Darabase has been absolutely amazing.”

See It While You Can

Like the Augmented Gallery, Lessons of the Hour is a limited engagement, but will be available throughout the month of August. While it’s definitely a sight to see while you’re in the area, it isn’t likely to be the last AR art to appear in London.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist with special interest in emerging technologies. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.