Patti Smith to light up Piccadilly Circus screens with new year performance

Patti Smith will ring in the new year with a tribute to NHS and healthcare workers who have died from Covid-19, to be shown on the big screen at Piccadilly Circus.

The musician, 73, and her band will ring in 2021 with a 10-minute performance at midnight, shown on the Piccadilly Lights screen and streamed around the world on the YouTube channel of digital art platform Circa.

Visitors to Piccadilly Circus will be encouraged to wear a face mask and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The performance will be a gift from the American singer-songwriter to London, a city she loves.

Anne Imhof (Circa/PA)

In the run-up to midnight, Circa will also present ONE, a new 10-minute commission by visual artist Anne Imhof, winner of the Venice Art Biennale 2017, which uses footage filmed at the Tate Modern during the artist’s large-scale installation and performance in 2019.

Smith told the Guardian she has also recorded another performance to be shown on the day of the US presidential inauguration on January 20 after four years under Donald Trump.

She told the paper: “It’s been a terrible atmosphere to live in.

“You try to do your work and not let (politics) permeate your consciousness daily but it does. It’s very insidious.

“I have encountered him in New York through the years and found him a horrible, narcissistic person and just a bad businessman. I’ve seen the debris of his deals.

Patti Smith performing a poem (Circa/PA)

“I think the damage he has done is going to be felt for a long time. It’s not going to be so easily healed because globally he has empowered people of a like mind.”

She added she will take “huge psychological relief in the new administration. I’m a natural optimist so I’m not without hope or inspiration.

“What matters is trying to clean up some of his mess and get some order. I’m doing that in my house.

“I’m a messy person, and I know that before I can do something creative or exciting I’ve first got to clear everything away.”

Patti Smith during her performance (Circa/PA)

Created by artist Josef O’Connor, Circa has invited a different artist each month to present new ideas on the Piccadilly Lights screen.

From January 1 the projects, including Smith’s work for the first month, will be shown every day at 8.21pm (20:21), in reference to the new year.

O’Connor said: “These remarkable works by two of the world’s leading artists are a great gift to London.

“Piccadilly Lights, generously donated to artists by LandSec, is a wonderful new platform for their work which has assumed an even greater resonance during the pandemic.

“We are proud that Circa has played its part in making art more accessible to audiences across London when it is more important then ever before.”

Imhof said: “It is an honour to show my piece ONE on the iconic screens of Piccadilly Circus leading up to midnight on New Year’s Eve as part of the c.20:20 project.

“The opportunity to take over Europe’s largest advertising display and open a portal to hope in the final moments of 2020 is humbling. Peace, freedom and respect for everyone in 2021.”

A limited edition print by Smith will be available to buy for £100 from January 1.

Viewers can watch the installation at youtube.com/watch?v=y4majZOZtJ8&feature=youtu.be from 11.45pm on December 31.

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