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The Classical Now opens at King's on 2 March 2018

Posted on 20/02/2018

The Classical Now, a major exhibition exploring Greek and Roman antiquity in the modern artistic imagination, opens at King’s College London on 2 March 2018.

Presented by King’s College London in partnership with MACM (the award-winning Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins), the exhibition traces the ways in which Graeco-Roman art has captured and permeated the modern imagination.  It examines classical presences in the works of twentieth-century artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore and Yves Klein, and leading contemporary artists including Damien Hirst, Alex Israel, Louise Lawler, Grayson Perry, Marc Quinn 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.

19 Leo Caillard-forKing's website 

The Classical Now is staged across two spaces at King’s College London, the Inigo Rooms in the East Wing of Somerset House, and the Arcade at Bush House – part of the Cultural Quarter at King's.

Exhibited works range from classical Greek and Roman artefacts (in bronze, marble and mosaic) 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.

Alongside ancient Greek and Roman objects, The Classical Now exhibits work by Edward Allington, Pablo Bronstein, Léo Caillard, Jean Cocteau, Michael Craig-Martin, André Derain, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Damien Hirst, Alex Israel, Derek Jarman, Yves Klein, Louise Lawler, Christopher Le Brun, Roy Lichtenstein, George Henry Longly, Ursula Mayer, Henry Moore, Bruce Nauman, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Giulio Paolini, Grayson Perry, Frances Picabia, Pablo Picasso, Marc Quinn, Mary Reid Kelley & Patrick Kelley, Sacha Sosno, Mark Wallinger and Rachel Whiteread. The show will also incorporate the video-installation, ‘Liquid Antiquity: Conversations’, featuring interviews with six contemporary artists (Matthew Barney, Paul Chan, Urs Fischer, Jeff Koons, Asad Raza and Kaari Upson) – commissioned by the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, and designed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro.

The Classical Now forms part of a research project on ‘Modern Classicisms’, led by Michael Squire in King’s Department of Classics, part of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. The exhibition is curated by Michael Squire (Reader in Classical Art at King's), and James Cahill and Ruth Allen (post-doctoral fellows in ‘Modern Classicisms’ 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, MACM (Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins). 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 Classical Now sees many of them exhibited in Britain for the first time with around 20 works travelling from MACM to London. The exhibition features around 50 works in total.

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


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