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The Classical Now

Posted on 30/11/2017

King's College London announces major exhibition, The Classical Now, opening 2 March 2018. 


The Classical Now, a major exhibition pairing the work of modern and contemporary artists with classical Greek and Roman antiquities, will be on display at King’s College London from 2 March until 28 April 2018. Presented in partnership with the award-winning Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins (MACM), the exhibition traces the ways in which Graeco-Roman art has captured and permeated the modern imagination.

The exhibition will examine classical presences in the works of twentieth-century artists such as Pablo Picasso and Yves Klein, and leading contemporary artists including Damien Hirst, Alex Israel, Louise Lawler, Grayson Perry and Rachel Whiteread. The show explores the myriad continuities and contrasts between the ancient, modern and contemporary, revealing the 'classical' as a living and fluid tradition.

The Classical Now is staged across two spaces at King’s, the Inigo Rooms in the East Wing of Somerset House, and the Arcade at Bush House – a new space for exhibitions and events at King’s College London. 

Objects range from classical Greek and Roman artefacts to contemporary painting, sculpture, video and photography. The exhibition will feature contemporary works in which classical forms receive provocative new expression – such as the fragmentary bodies by contemporary artist Marc Quinn – alongside more oblique or suggestive uses of ancient themes, such as Bruce Nauman's landmark video performance, Walk with Contrapposto (1968). Paris-based artist Léo Caillard, known for dressing classical statues in contemporary attire, has been commissioned to produce a new site-specific installation for the exhibition.

Contemporary artists featured in the exhibition include Edward Allington, Christopher Le Brun, Léo Caillard, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Damien Hirst, Alex Israel, Yves Klein, Louise Lawler, Bruce Nauman, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Giulio Paolini, Grayson Perry, Marc Quinn, Mary Reid Kelley and Rachel Whiteread.

The Classical Now is curated by Michael Squire (Reader in Classical Art at King's), and James Cahill and Ruth Allen (post-doctoral fellows working on the Modern Classicisms project, which is run in the Department of Classics and supported by the Faculty of Arts & Humanities at King’s). Michael Squire says: ‘The exhibition is intended to prompt questions: about how ancient art still captivates and provokes the modern imagination; how contemporary visual culture might help us to see the classical tradition with new eyes; and about what modern-day responses – set against the backdrop of others over the last two millennia – can tell us about our own cultural preoccupations.’ Cahill and Allen add: ‘The exhibition is about what the classical means, or looks like, now, the idea is to show that there is no one “route” between antiquity and modernity, but instead multiple interconnections.’

Those interconnections are also central to the vision of exhibition partner, the Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins (MACM). The museum’s collection ranges from Egyptian sarcophagi and classical bronzes of Apollo and Augustus through to works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Yves Klein and Damien Hirst. The exhibition will include several works from MACM on public display in the UK for the first time.

The Classical Now is also timed to coincide with the Annual Meeting of the Association for Art History in April 2018 – Europe’s largest meeting of art historians, curators and teachers, which is co-hosted by King’s College London and the Courtauld Institute of Art.

For more information on the exhibition please contact the team:


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