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Modern Classicisms and The Classical Now

What is it about ancient Greek and Roman art that still captivates and provokes the modern imagination?

How can contemporary art help us to see the classical tradition with new eyes? And what can modern-day responses – set against the backdrop of others over the last two millennia – tell us about our own cultural preoccupations?

Modern Classicisms sets out to explore these and other questions by bringing together classicists, art historians, critics and artists. The project commenced in August 2017, and runs until July 2018 in its first phase. Activities include a  workshop on 10 November 2017, and an  exhibition in spring 2018. This project comes about thanks to the generous support of Christian Levett and the  Mougins Museum of Classical Art,with additional support from the  Department of Classics and  Faculty of Arts & Humanities at King’s College London. King’s is proud to be working with other external collaborative partners, including the  Courtauld Institute of Art and  Minerva (The International Review of Ancient Art and Archaeology).

Launch workshop

The workshop on Friday 10 November 2017 launched our project: it brought together art historians, collectors, critics and artists in order to examine what the classical artistic legacy means from the vantage-point of contemporary artistic practice. 

The day took the form of a series of dialogues and discussions. The workshop was structured around a range of thematic sessions – each opened with a short intervention, followed by a panel response and group discussion. Speakers and respondents included not only academic classicists and art historians, but also curators, critics, journalists and, above all, artists themselves (including some of the most celebrated names in contemporary British art).

Check out #modernclassicisms on Twitter to see all the action from the day.

The Classical Now exhibition

Dates: 2 March –30 April 2018

Location: Bush House, Aldwych, London, WC2R 2LS

At the heart of our project is a major exhibition of classical and contemporary art in spring 2018, organised in collaboration with the  Mougins Museum of Classical Art. This will be the inaugural exhibition in the newly renovated Bush House complex in central London: Bush House was acquired by King’s College London in 2014, and renovation of the central building was completed in September 2017.

Built in the 1920s, Bush House was home to the BBC World Service until 2012. This iconic neoclassical building, located on the Strand opposite the Courtauld Gallery, is set to become a cultural hub and popular visitor destination. This inaugural exhibition resonates with the building’s modernist-classical design, while also celebrating almost 200 years of classics and classical archaeology at King’s.

The exhibition 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.

Research team

Dr Michael Squire - project lead

Michael Squire is Reader in Classical Art in the Department of Classics at King’s. He has published widely on Graeco-Roman art and its reception, and has edited recent volumes on Lessing’s Laocoon (Oxford University Press, 2017), The Frame in Classical Art (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and The Art of Hegel’s Aesthetics (Wilhelm Fink, 2017). A selection of Michael’s publications can be found  here.

Dr Ruth Allen

Ruth Allen is Post-Doctoral Fellow in Modern Classicisms at King’s.

Ruth completed her doctorate at the University of Cambridge (‘A cultural history of Roman engraved gemstones – their iconography, material, and function’). She received a MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art, and a BA in Classics from the University of Cambridge. She works broadly on Roman visual culture, with a focus on Roman adornment; she is also interested in materiality, corporeality, framing and space, as well as the reception, collection and display of Greek and Roman art from antiquity to today. As a doctoral student, she co-curated two public exhibitions on the relationship between classical and contemporary art; she has also worked at the British Museum in London and the Museum of Classical Archaeology in Cambridge. From September 2017, she will be joining the Getty Villa as a curatorial intern.

James Cahill

James Cahill is Post-Doctoral Fellow in Modern Classicisms at King’s.

James recently submitted his University of Cambridge doctorate on the relationship between contemporary British art and classical antiquity. He has contributed to publications including Art in America, Apollo, The Burlington Magazine, Elephant, The Erotic Review, frieze, the TLS and The White Review, and has co-curated exhibitions of ancient and contemporary art in London and Cambridge. James is the author and co-author of monographs including Richard Patterson (Anomie Publishing, 2017), Maggi Hambling: War Requiem and Aftermath (London: Unicorn Press, 2015 – coinciding with an exhibition at the Cultural Institute at King’s). He is the consulting editor of a major new book on classical mythology in western art, forthcoming from Phaidon. Other current projects include an anthology of interviews with contemporary artists, to be published in 2018 (Laurence King Publishing).


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Marc Quinn sculpture on Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth
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