Illumination: Works by Leo Villareal

23 November 2021

This exhibition showcases work by American light artist Leo Villareal and celebrates the completion of Illuminated River, the longest public art commission in the world, lighting the nine central London bridges across the Thames.

Designed by Leo Villareal, Illuminated River has transformed the Thames at night. The orchestrated series of light works form a ribbon of subtly shifting colour and light, revealing the architecture and celebrating the history of the bridges.

The project was developed through a collaboration between the Rothschild Foundation, the Mayor of London and a large number of stakeholders along the Thames.

Illuminated River is a multi-award-winning art installation, supported by the Mayor of London, transforming the capital at night with an orchestrated series of light works on the bridges that span the central London portion of the Thames. Its subtly moving sequences of LED light symbolically unifies the nine bridges in the project, drawing inspiration from the spirit and history of the river and from the architectural and engineering qualities of its bridges.

At 3.2 miles in length, Illuminated River is the longest public art project in the world and is viewed more than 90 million times a year. The project is freely accessible to all and encourages Londoners and visitors alike to engage with culture in the open air and to enjoy the public spaces of the riverside at night.

Led by the Illuminated River Foundation, the project involved a unique collaboration of statutory bodies, local authorities and communities, and will leave a lasting legacy for the capital in the form of this dynamic public artwork, which has a minimum lifespan of ten years.

The idea for the project was conceived by Jacob and Hannah Rothschild, who launched an open international competition, which was won by the team of renowned New York-based artist Leo Villareal and British architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands. Working with an expert multi-disciplinary team, the artwork was designed and programmed to draw attention to the architecture of central London’s bridges and brings to life the Thames after dark. The work is subtly kinetic, slowly moving and changing colour but careful to respect its unique environment. By removing the former inefficient lighting on the bridges and replacing it with smart LED technologies and custom fittings, the new scheme dramatically reduces light spill onto the river and provides a better environment for the river’s flora and fauna.

Apart from an initial investment of £250,000 from the Olympic Reserve, Illuminated River is funded entirely by private philanthropic donors.

London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium Bridges were illuminated in July 2019. Blackfriars, Waterloo, Golden Jubilee, Westminster and Lambeth bridges were illuminated in April 2021. The artwork can be seen every evening from sunset to 2am, to book a guided walking or boat tour, download our audio and free guides or experience a Google Arts virtual tour, please visit

Christmas Exhibitions:

13 Nov -27 Feb 2022


Coach House gallery