A Fox Running Loose in the National Portrait Gallery, London

April 21, 2011 | John Elmslie

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I've just discovered the artist Francis Alys. His video about the fox is the perfect introduction to his work.

Alys was born in Belgium and is active in Mexico City.


The cover of this Phaidon Press book, shows the artist hard at work creating a five minute video called Paradox of Praxis (Sometimes making something leads to nothing), 1997. Alys has created dozens of interesting performance videos and has posted them on his website.

But let's get to the fox.

Here is a quote from the Phaidon book:

"On the night of 7 April 2004, a fox was freed in the National Portrait Gallery. Its wanderings through the galleries were recorded by the institution's CCTV system."

The resulting art installation took the form of 20 videos displayed on 20 screens. I imagine this is how it must have looked to the Gallery's curators and security staff watching the fox from the Security Room as it ran from screen to screen. Alys called this installation The Nightwatch. The gallery version ran for 16 minutes. The Tate Collection in London, has a copy.

Thank you, Mister Alys, for this link to your six minute edit of The Nightwatch! It is unforgettable and the ending is charming. [Note: 2 November 2011. Alys has removed the edit of The Nightwatch from his website. Below please find the full 18 minute edit of this wonderful piece of video-art. --Elmslie]

Night watch (2004) by Iconographe