Along with Hewlett-Packard and brand and design consultancy, The Partners, the National Gallery is shaking up the idea of the open studio and putting the treasures of the permanent collection on to the streets of London. Not literally, because propping up a genuine Monet outside the Old Compton Street Starbucks is a bit stupid, but from now until the end of summer, you can stroll around Soho, Piccadilly and Covent Garden in the unique super-heated summer smog of outdoors London and enjoy works by Caravaggio, Constable, Van Eyck and more.
Faithful, high quality replica images of the real things will be placed in a variety of locations in the area around the National Gallery; maps and tours are available from the website and are arranged into The Grand Tour, The Heavy Hitters Tour, The Lover's Tour (all the nude paintings, probably), The Escape the City Tour and three variations of a Lunchbreak Tour, which we imagine would be a good way to settle your stomach after another type of Londonist lunchtime recommendation.
If you're on one of the organised tours mentioned above, a downloadable audio guide is available for each one; if you're just wandering around and bumping into the paintings and want the audio blurb for what you're looking at, there's a number to call next to each one. It's like a National Gallery alternative reality game - and dammit, it's pretty.
Since the maps have been drawn and there's a photo gallery of the paintings in situ being compiled on the Grand Tour website, we're a bit stumped as to what we can do a la the Gormley statues for this wonderful bit of masterpiece exhibitionism. We could... go for a walk and look at the pictures. See you by the Rembrandt.
The Grand Tour, various locations around Soho, Piccadilly and Covent Garden. For more information and for the various maps and audio guides, go to The Grand Tour website here.