The Nightwatch

The Nightwatch is in The Artangel Collection.  Since its initial presentation in 2005, the work has been re-presented several times, including installations at Pitzhanger Manor House and Gallery in Ealing and Art Exchange in Colchester in 2013, and at mac birmingham in spring of 2014.

  • Artist: Francis Alÿs
  • Title: The Nightwatch
  • Date: 2004
  • Medium: 20 channel video installation, 2 maps, printed papers, 7 drawings and book
  • Dimension: (video installation) 2340 x 2840 x 600mm
  • In the Tate Collection


The choice of a fox - an animal about whom humans are ambivalent - is apposite, the title of the film 'The Nightwatch' loaded. The artist's approach feels just right: raising questions in your mind about the nature of surveillance while simultaneously subverting these instruments of social control. — Hugh Pearman, Sunday Times (paywall), 18 September 2005

Francis Alÿs' The Nightwatch examines the nature of surveillance in the city. In the middle of the night the artist released a fox into London's deserted National Portrait Gallery and used the museum's CCTV system to track the animal's movements. The gallery was chosen because unlike other institutions, it does not hide its CCTV system but purposefully incorporates several monitors that capture spectators in its exhibition displays. The museum makes explicit the constant filming and surveillance of the public. Similarly, in its exhibition format, The Nightwatch offers the possibility of tracing the fox's movement sequentially from one monitor to the next, much like a security officer could with any individual in the city. The Nightwatch places the spectator as the voyeuristic overseer of the fox's walk, mirroring the relationship between London's surveillance system and the city's inhabitants.

Image: Francis Alÿs, The Nightwatch, 2004 (detail)

at mac birmingham

8 February - 30 March 2014

The Nightwatch was installed at mac birmingham as part of the group exhibition 'Walk On'. This exhibition included works by artists from Janet Cardiff to Richard Long and focused on artists’ walks and journeys, both literal and metaphorical, to examine the astonishingly varied ways in which artists since the late 1960s have used what would seem like a universal act – of taking a walk – as a means to create new types of art.

Image: Installation view of Francis Alÿs, The Nightwatch, 2005 at mac birmingham, 2014. Photograph: Courtesy mac birmingham

at Art Exchange

Colchester, 30 September - 30 November 2013

In the autumn of 2013, Art Exchange presented The Nightwatch as part of an exhibition of Francis Alÿs' project Seven Walks. The works in Seven Walks were developed by Alÿs over 5 years, and delved into the everyday rituals and habits of the metropolis. This exhibition at Art Exchange was accompanied by a symposium, which expanded on the themes of Alÿs' explorations of the city, and featured speakers TJ Demos, James Lingwood, Andrés Montenegro, Marina Warner and Richard Wentworth. The discussion was chaired by Dawn Ades.

Image: Installation view of Francis Alÿs of Seven Walks including The Nightwatch, 2005 at Art Exchange, 2013. Photograph: Courtesy Art Exchange

at Pitzhanger Manor House and Gallery

London, 27 March - 5 May 2013

The Nightwatch was installed in the neo-classical Pitzhanger Manor House as part of the group exhibition 'Walk On'. Spanning the last 50 years and including works from street photography to the essay-film, the exhibition explored the varied ways in which artists have used what would seem like a universal act – of taking a walk – as a means to create new types of art.

Image: Installation view of Francis Alÿs, The Nightwatch, 2005 at Pitzhanger Manor House and Gallery, 2013. Photograph: Courtesy Pitzhanger Manor Gallery

Previous Presentations

Since the launch of The Artangel Collection, The Nightwatch has been installed at: