London Offers Cultural and Artistic Events Before Olympics

Time flies: Seems like just last week (or so) the world learned that London would host the Summer Olympics in 2012. And now 2012 is here, and the city is making the most of its year in the spotlight. A city-wide free Wi-Fi network has already been announced, and numerous cultural and artistic events will take palce leading up to the games (which will run from July 27 to August 12). Bloomberg has a fun list of attractions throughout the city, some of which have already kicked off.

Things to look forward to: Martin Creed (the artist who had runners sprint through Tate Britain a few years ago) will have people in the U.K. ring a bell (any kind of bell, including a phone) at 8 a.m. on July 27. And stage star (and former director of the remodeled Globe Theatre) Mark Rylance will approach pedestrians using Shakespearean verse. Reportedly, he’ll ask the time, then lapse into the Bard's 18th sonnet, which begins “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (It probably won't seem that unusual to those who have heard his two Tony Award acceptance speeches.)

Arts fans should head to the museums, too: This month, 74-year-old David Hockney will get a Royal Academy of Arts show of mostly new works (January 21-April 9). The tech-savvy artist will reportedly premiere a giant grid beaming images taken by nine cameras of the same scene at slightly different angles.

Lucian Freud, who died last July, is the focus of a portrait show in what would have been the year of his 90th birthday at the National Portrait Gallery, February  9-May 27). And Damian Hirst will get his first-ever U.K. retrospective at Tate Modern (April 4-September 9), including his shark in formaldehyde (“The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”) and his diamond skull, which will be displayed in a special viewing room in the lobby-level Turbine Hall.

The Telegraph has a fun review of a Room for London, a one-room "hotel" in a paddle steamer perched above Waterloo Bridge, one of the first projects to celebrate London 2012. The project designed by the architect David Kohn and the artist Fiona Banner. No immediate rush to see this one: It will remain open for the Olympic year. If your clients want to stay overnight, you can book tickets on Thursday, January 19.

Learn more about the Cultural Olympiad at


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