AN ARTIST with a remarkable gift has over-come the odds to open his first gallery.
Stephen Wiltshire has autism, the condition memorably brought to life by Dustin Hoffman in the Oscar-winning film Rain Man. Like Hoffman's character, he is also a savant' - trapped in a private world but able to communicate through other means in his case, art.
His ability to make minutely captured the nation's imagination when he was featured in a BBC documentary 20 years ago.
The 32-year-old drawn famous sights in Japan, France and Italy but his favourite is the Empire State Building. He said: 'I like high-rise buildings and skyscrapers and I just love New York City. I like the rush-hour and the noise. It’s very exciting.'
When Mr Wiltshire was just 12, the late Sir Hugh Casson - former president of the Royal Academy - described him as 'possibly the best child artist in Britain'. Psychologist Dr Olivier Sacks, who studied his case, called him 'not merely a savant but a prodigy'.
More than 40,000 people attended his last public exhibition in 2003 and an original print for sale on his website can cost up to £1,500. His four published books of drawings have all been best-sellers, with one, Floating Cities, reaching No. 1. Earlier this year, he was made an MBE for services to art. Today, he opens the Stephen Wiltshire Gallery at the Royal Opera Arcade in Pall Mall, Central London.
His latest picture is on display and shows Middlesex Guildhall in the capital, which is being turned into the new Supreme Court. Mr Wiltshire’s sister, Annette, said the BBC programme changed his life and helped to raise awareness of autism. 'It enabled him to travel and helped him develop his social skills,' she added. 'He still depends on us as a family but he is now able to go out alone.'